Tina K. Russell

June 18, 2009

The One I Feed

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:46 am

This is what Bill Moyers said after a report on the man who, last year, walked into a Unitarian church with the intention of killing “liberals,” murdering one congregant before being subdued. With the murders of an abortion doctor and a Holocaust museum guard, and questions of the media’s role in these crimes, I feel it is even more important to heed Moyers’s words.

Bill Moyers Journal . Transcripts | PBS
We may never know what finally triggered the killer’s rage, unless he chooses at his trial or later to tell us. But not for a moment do I think any of the talk show hosts mentioned by the police would have wished it to happen.

We asked several radio hosts to come on this broadcast and talk about the story; they either declined or didn’t return our calls. The issue of course is not their right to say anything they want on the air. The First Amendment guarantees their free speech as it does mine. Government shouldn’t be the arbiter of what the Bill of Rights leaves to one’s own sense of fair play.

Watching that report, however, I was reminded of a story from folk lore about the tribal elder telling his grandson about the battle the old man was waging within himself. He said, “My son it is between two wolves. One is an evil wolf: anger, envy, sorrow, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is the good wolf: joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The boy took this in for a few minutes and then asked, “Which wolf won?” His grandfather answered, “The one I feed.”

So, too, America’s public life. The wolf that wins is the wolf we feed. Media provides the fodder.

December 22, 2008

Victorious Transsexuals: Bülent Ersoy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:34 am

Middle East Online
ISTANBUL – A Turkish court Thursday acquitted a famed transsexual singer of charges of turning the public against military service, citing clauses protecting free speech, Anatolia news agency reported.

Bulent Ersoy, 56, was put on trial after she said in February that if she had a son, she would not send him to the army to fight Kurdish rebels, whose 24-year campaign for self-rule in the southeast has claimed about 44,000 lives.

The court ruled that the alleged offence had not been committed and the defendant had exercised her right to freedom of expression, Anatolia said.

FREE SPEECH WIN! I hope this gives Turkey some serious EU points, with the possibility of many more if they reform the law itself.

November 21, 2008

Bygones

Early Test for Obama on Domestic Spying Views – NYTimes.com
Some Democratic lawmakers have said they would like to conduct a more thorough investigation than was possible during Mr. Bush’s tenure, but other Democratic advisers say they see little gain from trying to investigate past abuses and that an investigation risks harming the bipartisan spirit of cooperation that Mr. Obama has promised.

“We cannot be facile and say bygones will be bygones, because they will not be bygones and will return to haunt us. True reconciliation is never cheap, for it is based on forgiveness, which is costly. Forgiveness in turn depends on repentance, which has to be based on an acknowledgement of what was done wrong, and therefore on disclosure of the truth. You cannot forgive what you do not know.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as chair of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995

October 25, 2008

Progress in the weakest sense

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:50 am

Freedom is on the march, huh? Nice to know that Afghanistan is such a staunch ally in the fight for freedom and justice. By that I mean… okay, they’re an enormous letdown.

No Death Sentence for Afghan Journalist – NYTimes.com
KABUL, Afghanistan — An appeals court sentenced a young Afghan journalist to 20 years in prison for blasphemy on Tuesday, overturning a death sentence ordered by a provincial court but raising further concerns of judicial propriety in the case.

The defendant, Sayed Parwiz Kambakhsh, 23, was a journalism student in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and worked for a daily newspaper there. He was arrested last October and accused of printing and distributing an article from the Internet about Islam and women’s rights, on which he had written some comments about the Prophet Muhammad’s failings on that issue.

While insults to Muhammad are anathema in Afghanistan, the decisions by both the lower court and the appeals court shocked many of Mr. Kambakhsh’s supporters and outraged international journalism organizations, which suggested that neither of the trials had been fair. The defendant’s brother, also a journalist, said the proceedings had been prompted by his own critical writings about local militia and political leaders.

That’s right! Twenty years for criticizing the Prophet Muhammad. Or, twenty years for having a brother who criticized local media and politicians. I’m not sure which is worse.

It should be noted here that Muhammad was a man who invited criticism and stood up for women’s rights. I’ll get letters, but it’s true.

Mr. Kambakhsh’s defense lawyer said he would appeal to the Supreme Court, and he called on President Hamid Karzai for help.

“We request the president of Afghanistan to intervene and to not let the corruption in the judicial system violate the rights of Afghan citizens,” said the lawyer, Mohammad Afzal Nuristani.

’Cause if they don’t, support for Afghanistan among Americans will become timid, at best.

October 13, 2008

The Cure for What Veils You

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:30 pm

World Briefing – Europe – France – Agency Rules That Burqa Violates Values – NYTimes.com
The French agency devoted to combating discrimination has determined that the burqa, the all-encompassing garment that some Muslim women wear, violates French values and inhibits integration into French society. “The burqa is a sign of the submission of women that surpasses its religious aspect and could be considered as a breach of republican values,” the agency, the High Authority for the Fight Against Discrimination and for Equality, said in a ruling, the daily newspaper La Croix reported Thursday. The decision means that women will not be permitted to wear burqas or niqabs, a related garment, in state-sponsored French-language classes.

I have mixed feelings about the burqa. On the one hand, everyone should have the right to wear whatever they want; I’d think that’s a cornerstone of American, and French, values. On the other hand, I don’t like knee-jerk liberal defense of the burqa because I don’t just dislike it when women are explicitly forced to wear the burqa (as under the Taliban), I dislike it when women are socially coerced or universally expected to wear the garment. So, in that sense, I do feel that the burqa represents oppression of women worldwide. However, I do understand that there are women who wear the burqa of their own free will, without any sort of coercion from outside, and such freedom to wear what you want ought to be encouraged. This French ruling pre-empts women’s right to wear what they want, and that I find distasteful.

I guess what I’m saying that a) I want to go to bat for the burqa because I feel this ruling is unconscionably restrictive, and b) I’m reluctant to go to bat for the burqa, because while I know many women wear it out of free will, I don’t want my (proud!) liberal sensibilities to get in the way of acknowledging that many women don’t get that choice and are forced to wear it through explicit force or through social coercion and expectation.

I wish I could wear whatever I wanted to, but society expects a standard of modesty for me. The burqa is a spectacularly restricting garment, expressing practically nothing of the women behind it. I suppose some women like it that way, and more power to them (or they like the garment for other reasons), but it still represents oppression so as long as women are forced (in any way) to wear it. I think that’s the kind of prejudice, the real threat to women, that this French ruling is meant to oppose, and it’s a shame that for such good intentions the bill is just more restriction of women’s freedoms. I don’t like the burqa, but the whole point of freedom is that I cannot and should not impose my beliefs upon others, and nobody should have the choice made for them beforehand.

October 5, 2008

Re: Dress of Grievances

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 5:53 pm

(Alternate titles: “Skirting the Issue,” “K.K. Lament,” “Backless vs. Tactless,” and “The Prom Before the Storm”)

GayCityNews – Prom Dress a Federal Case
In a September 25 ruling, a federal judge in Gary, Indiana, gave a green light to a lawsuit by a transsexual high school student suing over his principal’s refusal to allow him to attend the prom in a dress.

According to the complaint, [student Kevin “K.K.”] Logan identifies as a gay transsexual youth who prefers to wear feminine attire, and did so throughout his senior year at West Side High School in Gary. It is an interesting sign of the times that Logan claims he encountered no substantial problems at school due to his attire, finding both teachers and fellow students generally supportive. Even the assistant principal stated no objections when Logan inquired about wearing a dress to the prom.

But principal Diana Rouse stated her objection, directing that Logan wear a pants suit rather than a prom dress.

Despite this, Logan arrived at the prom wearing a dress similar to those worn by the girls in attendance, and was denied entry at Rouse’s direction. Several students aware of what was going on left the prom and spent part of the evening in the parking lot with Logan to show their solidarity, before he returned home without having been allowed to enter.

After the prom, Logan demanded to know what school policy restricted his dressing for the event, and was shown “School Board Policy #319,” which deems “inappropriate” clothing that signals “sexual orientation.”

Logan raised a variety of claims in his suit, asserting violation of his First Amendment free speech rights, his Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights, and his right to be free of sex discrimination by an educational institution under Title IX of the Higher Education Amendments Act.

I cannot imagine any substantial reason why, after women fought so hard for the right to wear pants, men should be restricted from wearing dresses. I also cannot imagine how a policy that certain clothes are fine for women but banned for men (under the notion that they “signal” sexual orientation) is anything but discrimination based on sex. (More than that, it’s discrimination based on sex disguised as discrimination against sexual orientation, as though the latter is somehow fine. Weird…) And, I can’t imagine why any of this is sufficient reason to keep a student from attending his own senior prom. It’s cruel, and I’m only glad that his fellow students were supportive enough to hang out with him during the event. It’s a shame when students must fill a void in the absence of responsible adults, but always heartening when they do it well.

(I should note that I’m only following GayCityNews’s use of male pronouns, hoping that they bothered to check what K.K. prefers.)

From now on, I hope it’s clear: your school’s dress code must be gender-neutral. If you want to ban dresses, fine, but it’ll have to be for everyone. Otherwise, you’re discriminating based on sex. It’s that simple.

September 25, 2008

Bülent Ersoy update

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:34 am

Thank your lucky stars, and your country’s laws or founding documents, if you have freedom of speech. Not having it kind of sucks; just ask Bülent Ersoy, now on trial for criticizing Turkey’s mandatory military service, and its excursions in Iraq to the south.

Transsexual Turkish singer defends self in court – International Herald Tribune
Singer Bulent Ersoy has acknowledged saying on television that if she had children she would not want them to join the army to battle Kurdish rebels who are fighting for self-rule.

“I spoke in the name of humanity. Even if I were to face execution, I would say the same thing,” the state-run Anatolia news agency quoted Ersoy as telling the court in Istanbul.

In Turkey, defendants are not expected to enter a plea before a panel of judges hears testimony at a trial and returns a verdict.

Ersoy questioned the fairness of a law making it a crime to criticize Turkey’s mandatory 15-month military service for all men over 20. If found guilty, she could face two years in prison.

Ersoy, 56, who sings traditional Turkish music and dresses in flamboyant gowns, served in the military before her 1981 sex-change operation, her lawyer Muhittin Yuzuak told the court Wednesday.

Turkey wants to join the European Union, to become its first Muslim nation. Turkey will have to clean up this atrocious behavior to join the European club, and EU countries should do all they can to encourage them to do so, and welcome them as a potential member of the European Union.

August 13, 2008

Siné qua “Non!”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 6:24 pm

Letters – When Speech Is Hateful, How Free Should It Be? – Letter – NYTimes.com
Re “Aux Barricades! France and the Jews,” by Roger Cohen (column, The New York Times on the Web, Aug. 4):

Mr. Cohen defends Bob Siné, a columnist-cartoonist for Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine, citing free speech issues.

But Mr. Siné’s editor, Philippe Val, did not prosecute him or arrest him for his anti-Semitic column; he merely fired him.

Just because I believe absolutely in free speech does not require me to publish any hateful screed that comes across my desk. Mr. Siné is free to publish, at his own expense, any bigotry he likes. But a journal aspiring to be respectable has no legal or moral obligation to participate in such hatred, and it may well have political and moral reasons not to.

(Rabbi) Jonathan H. Gerard

Easton, Pa., Aug. 4, 2008

Yeah, but even before the outcry over Siné’s hateful column, everyone already knew that he was an anti-Semitic jerkwad. For me, the puzzle comes down to “why now?” I could be charitable and say that the editor merely felt, given the outcry, that Siné no longer merited any kind of public standard (as he does not), that the French people had outgrown his childishness and it was time to move on. But I cannot help but hang my head and sigh at the editor’s decision to fire Siné in direct response to the outcry. He was fully aware that Siné was a cantankerous bigot. Why hire him (if, indeed, he was the editor who did)? Why keep him on so long? And why fire him amidst a storm of controversy? Perhaps they realized (correctly) that they never should have hired him, but I do not like the chilling effect of hiring known provocateurs and then firing them when they provoke, nor am I fond of writers and cartoonists being fired to placate an angry mob, or editors making such key decisions in a tense emotional environment.

Then again, I’d be on cloud nine if Michael Savage got fired one of these days for his hateful shtick (he makes Rush Limaugh look like a Care Bear). My question is… if Siné is so bad (and it sounds like he is), why wasn’t he fired before? And why would a responsible editor fire him in the heat of controversy?

June 19, 2008

Protect the Poor, Innocent, Bamboo-Eating Minorities

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 6:34 pm

Letters – Standards of Free Speech, in the U.S. and Abroad – Letter – NYTimes.com
To the Editor:

Don’t fall into the trap that we in Canada have fallen into: that only free speech that doesn’t offend can be considered free speech. This is only a euphemism for censorship.

For those of us in Canada, it is too late. Once censorship has been given the cloak of official acceptability, it’s almost impossible to root out, because the advocacy groups that support it, and that now have the backing of the law, will do everything they can to hold on to their newfound powers.

We have opened a door that we can no longer shut. The United States still has a chance to save itself. Don’t throw it away. Roy Weston

Burnaby, British Columbia

June 12, 2008

I’m liberal on most things, but one issue I’ve always been fairly libertarian on is free speech. Once we decide that we need to outlaw certain kinds of speech as “hate speech,” we need to appoint people to decide what kinds of speech is acceptable, and I will always be against that. We do, of course, have judges to decide when “speech” becomes action, such as in cases of libel, inciting violence, or the classic “fire” in a crowded theater. But, that very limited scope of authority–of deciding exactly when you are acting rather than merely speaking–is what prevents judges from being able to overreach and decide what people can say or think.

Besides that, I absolutely loathe the argument that minorities need to be protected from public humiliation, or somesuch. Yes, I hate it when dumb, anti-transsexual, hateful, thoughtless garbage turns up in my Google News feed (which you can find to your right), but I never, ever want people standing up and declaring themselves to be my sole protection from idiots with keyboards. I don’t want people saying, oh, poor little Tina, she’s a woman, or she’s transsexual, we need to protect her from all those mean people out there who are saying bad things. Outlawing tasteless, thoughtless speech in the name of protecting minorities is essentially saying they are children who cannot stand up for themselves, and if you say that, I will personally plant Jennifer Granholm’s high-heeled shoe onto your behind. I’m a big girl, I can look out for myself.

I should say… those nasty words hurt, of course, but I’d much rather you stand up for me (and it does mean a lot!) by saying different, better things, and changing the dialogue from one that demeans people’s differences to one that celebrates all kinds of people. But… we can’t deal with lingering hate and resentment if people clam up and are afraid to talk because they don’t want to branded a bigot, or worse, carted off to jail to “protect minorities” from simple ignorance. The completely stupid and clueless things that were said about Thomas Beattie, the famous “pregnant man” (a concept more or less unremarkable in the trans community), were annoying, but I knew that people had to get the dumb stuff out of their systems (a pregnant man, how novel!) before we could move on into a new, more enlightened era. Similarly, I know that if somebody wants to put out the I Hate Tina Russell Gazette, where they declare me to be some vicious, he-she man-beast, it’s their right and my time would be better spent appealing to people’s intelligence, kindness, and sincerity–counteracting the hate–than define myself by attempting to shut the detractors down. (In fact, if I spent my time trying to shut my detractors down, I would forever be known as the woman who totally denies being a vicious, he-she man-beast.)

June 18, 2008

Wrongly Persecuted Transsexuals: Bulent Ersoy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 11:55 am

Transsexual Turkish singer on trial for criticizing military service – International Herald Tribune
A popular transsexual Turkish singer went on trial Wednesday on charges of trying to turn the public against military service.

Bulent Ersoy could face more than two years in prison for saying during a live television show that if she had children, she would not want them to join the army to fight Kurdish rebels.

Military service is obligatory for men over the age of 20 in Turkey, and it is a crime to speak against it.

The European Union, which Turkey wants to join, is pressing Turkey to do away with laws that stifle free expression.

Ersoy, who underwent a sex-change operation in 1981 to become a woman, is one of Turkey’s best-loved singers. She was barred from appearing on stage during the 1980s following a military coup by generals who disapproved of her.

In an indictment against Ersoy, prosecutor Ali Cakir accused the singer of “alienating the public toward military service” and of affecting the morale of the soldiers and their families. He asked that the singer be punished with between nine and 30 months in prison.

Imagine if the Dixie Chicks were legally threatened with jail time, and you’ll see how absurd this is.

(Memo to Agance-France Presse: Do you really need to begin the headline and article with that she’s transsexual? Obviously, I put “transsexual” in the headline, but that’s because of this blog that I run. I’d guess the point is that she’s being persecuted for exercising freedom of speech, not that she’s transsexual, but I have a personal stake in societal acceptance of transsexuality as normal, so what do I know?)

(Memo to Turkish government: Heavy-handed crackdowns on dissent insult Turkishness more than any plain-spoken popstar ever could.)

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