Friday, November 25, 2016

Amanda Knox, a Netflix documentary

Amanda Knox was wrongfully convicted in the much sensationalized murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher in 2007. The investigation and trial gained global interest because it had manifested into something it never was to begin with. Amanda Knox, a new Netflix documentary, explores to some degree, how this happened. I hope the intention was to make the public aware of the severe consequences misplaced hysteria can have. I first watched this documentary when it was released in September, and have been thinking about it a lot recently in regards to the presidential campaign and the vilification of Hillary Clinton.

Knox and Kercher were roommates while studying abroad in Perugia, Italy. Kercher, 22, was from England, and Knox, 20, was from Seattle. Only weeks after first meeting, while Knox spent the night at a new boyfriend's house, Kercher was brutally murdered in the home her and Knox shared. Within a few days, Knox and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecitio, became prime suspects because they didn't look sad enough.

Giuliano Mignini, chief prosecutor in the Knox murder trial, led the legal pack in fabricating her involvement with the murder. Mignini explains that while first questioning Knox, who became visibly shaken, "started hitting the palms of her hands on her ears. As if there was the memory of a noise, a sound, a scream, Meredith’s scream. Undoubtedly I started to suspect Amanda,” Mignini says.  How he ends up with this romanticized conclusion of Knox's inner voices is bizarre. 

Later in the documentary Mignini attempts to give us a play-by-play of the murder that night. Because Amanda was an "uninhibited" girl, Meredith must have "scolded her for her lack of morals." Amanda must have then felt "humiliated" in front of Raffaele and friend, Rudy Guede, and decided to murder Kercher. Mignini's opinion of Knox and how women act and react is gross. He then suggests that Raffaele Sollecitio and Rudy Guede only helped commit murder to indulge Amanda. Mignini is suggesting that the manipulating female is in total control of her subjects. Mignini reminds me of someone else who comes to illogical conclusions. Someone else who will demonize a woman for their own glory.

Mignini's rhetoric worked. The media helped fan the flames with headlines like, "She-devil with an angel face." "Heartless manipulator." "Concertante of sex." "Drug-fueled sex game gone wrong." "Foxy Knoxy." "Voodoo ritual." Tabloid journalism whipped the public into a frenzy. Needless to say, Knox, Sollecitio, and Guede went to prison.

Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecitio, Giuliano Mignini, and Nick Pisa

Nick Pisa, a freelance journalist, was put on the front lines of the case. "I think now, looking back, some of the information that came out was just crazy really, and just completely made up. But hey, what are we supposed to do, you know? We are journalists and we are reporting what we are being told. It's not as if I can say, "Right, hold on a minute. I just want to double check that myself." And then I let my rival get in there first before me, and then, hey, I've lost the scoop. Not in the news game." Pisa said the story blew up in the first place because of the sexual intrigue, the "girl-on-girl crime." It's clear Pisa believes it would have been silly to abandon the notion that Knox committed the crime even though it was unsubstantiated.

Once Knox and Sollecitio appealed their conviction, due to insufficient evidence and contaminated DNA, the American media in particular took a more investigative approach. Rudy Guede's attorney, Walter Biscotti said, "It bothered me that the American media lectured us about the law. This courthouse, in 1308,  housed the first faculty of law in Europe. In America, in 1308, they were drawing buffalo in caves." This guy doesn't know basic American history.

Knox tries to make sense of her situation. "I think people love monsters. And when they get the chance, they want to see them. It's people projecting their fears. They want the reassurance that they know who the bad people are, and it's not them. So maybe that's what it is. We're all afraid. And fear makes people crazy."

Amanda Knox is available now on Netflix.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

We Have Nazis Now

The dregs of society continue to surface. Trump gave them a platform long ago and continues to do so as his only verbal denunciations of ongoing racist acts seem to begin and end with the words "stop it." This edition: Nazis.

A video from the National Policy Institute's weekend annual meeting surfaced, showing people "hail Trump"-ing and Nazi saluting. I'd post it here, but, gross. The NPL, a self-described 'alt-right think-tank' supports white nationalism and neo-Nazi policies. Richard Spencer, who runs the NPL, called the meeting so they can "start influencing policy and culture." Meaning, start advocating for "peaceful ethnic cleansing," as Spencer has suggested in the past. "America was, until this past generation, a white country, designed for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us," said Spencer.

It's understandable why these groups flocked to Trump. Trump is a mysogynist. Trump is racist. Trump is xenophobic. Trump is a fucking moron. He made this clear (and clearer and clearer) throughout his campaign. Not only did he denounce virtually everyone who isn't a white, straight male (you know, someone just like him), he retweeted messages from white supremacist social media accounts, including posting anti-Semitic themes. He continues to vilify journalists, who Spencer has labeled the "lügenpresse" or "lying press", what the original nazi party called the media in Germany.

Chris Edelson, assistant professor of government in American University's School of Public Affairs, wrote "Trump’s campaign did not unite Americans; it emboldened white nationalists and white supremacists." By winning the election and continuing to appoint monsters, Trump has validated people who have dangerous views. These people can now influence public policy.

Let's recap:
Steve Bannon, executive editor to Brietbart News, a white nationalist news site who publishes articles like How To Make Women Happy: Uninvent The Washing Machine And The Pill, is now our White House chief strategist.
Jeff Sessions, Alabama Senator who was turned down for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of his alleged past racist comments, is now our attorney general.
Mike Flynn, Islamophobe who said Islamism is a "vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people" that has to be "excised", is now our National Security Adviser.
Kris Kobach, who has outlined plans to register Muslims, block the immigration of all Syrian refugees, and deport millions of undocumented immigrants has joined forces with Trump's immigration policy transition team.

We know there are several parallels between Trump and Hitler, but Spencer is using Hitler's literal agenda. The Holocaust Museum released a statement noting that Spencer's comments “closely echoe[d] Adolf Hitler’s view of Jews and that history is a racial struggle for survival.” The statement concluded by observing that “the Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words. The Museum calls on all American citizens, our religious and civic leaders, and the leadership of all branches of the government to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech.”

CNN used this garbage as a headline, further perpetuating the rise of the nazis.

Image source: Independent

So, here we are.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Book Review: Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz

Title: Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History
Author: Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl
Pages: 112 pages
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Genre: Nonfiction; Biography; History; Women's Studies
My Rating: 5/5

Educational and inspirational, this New York Times bestseller from the authors of Rad American Women A-Z, is a bold, illustrated collection of 40 biographical profiles showcasing extraordinary women from around the world.

Rad Women Worldwide tells fresh, engaging, and inspiring tales of perseverance and radical success by pairing well researched and riveting biographies with powerful and expressive cut-paper portraits. From 430 BCE to 2016, spanning 31 countries around the world, the book features an array of diverse figures, including Hatshepsut (the great female king who ruled Egypt peacefully for two decades) and Malala Yousafzi (the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize) to Poly Styrene (legendary teenage punk and lead singer of X-Ray Spex) and Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft (polar explorers and the first women to cross Antarctica). This progressive and visually arresting book is a compelling addition to women's history and belongs on the shelf of every school, library, and home. 

Rad Women Worldwide highlights powerful leaders throughout history. Schatz's biographies are engaging and digestible and pair well with Stahl's minimalist portraits. Many of these women across the 31 countries gave their (literal) lives fighting for causes close to them. Some campaigned for their native land and language by taking on corporations looking to exploit. Others fought for the environment by planting trees or combating palm oil companies to save orangutans. Some pushed for civil rights by taking on racial discrimination and equal access to reproductive health. Artists overshadowed throughout their life went on to have eternal glory. Other artists are presently fighting for equal representation at major art museums. There were soccer stars, tennis players, and mountain climbers who made it to the top (again, literally) against all odds. And you can do all of this too.

My favorites from Rad Women Worldwide:
"I have more than enough courage to suffer this death and a thousand more. Do not forget my example." Instead of obeying orders to turn away from a firing squad, Policarpa "La Pola" Salavarrieta, heroine of the independence of Colombia, faced her executioners.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a self-taught New Spain scholar, entered a convent and became a nun solely "to have a fixed occupation which might curtail my freedom to study." In short, she was crashing at God's house because it gave her academic freedom. I like it.

Grace "Granuaile" O'Malley, an Irish pirate, proposed marriage to her second husband only because she wanted his castle. A year later, she divorced him by saying "I dismiss you." Savage.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review.

Additional links

Friday, November 18, 2016

History Teacher Suspended for Sharing Likeness of Trump and Hitler

A history teacher from Mountain View High School in Mountain View, California was temporarily suspended for teaching students about the parallels between the rise of Trump and dictator Adolf Hitler. Frank Navarro, who has won awards for his research on the Holocaust, was accused of teaching "one-sided" history.

Frank Navarro, Image source: SFGate

"This feels like we’re trying to squash free speech. Everything I talk about is factually based. They can go and check it out. It’s not propaganda or bias if it’s based on hard facts. I said (to Mountain View officials), ‘I’m not pulling these facts out of my hat. It’s based on experience and work and if I’m wrong, show me where I’m wrong.’ And there was silence," said Navarro. "In my silence, I would be substantiating the bigotry," he goes on to say.

Although the superintendent has since brought Navarro back to the school, he explained that his actions were to maintain diligence. To "maintain a line in a classroom." Hitler's actions are not in dispute so I am unclear what this "line" is. Hitler demonized a minority group to justify his actions. Trump has demonized many.

So what Navarro can no longer do, I can:

Alright, frankly I'm tired of listing the endless comparisons.

If you don't agree with any of these, you should have no trouble with this quiz:

Thursday, November 17, 2016

I Know That We're Going to Repeat History, Unless We Sort This Out

The urgent scramble to protect ourselves and each other has begun. These organizations need your support. Here are activist resources I have compiled to move forward with. Donate, volunteer, speak out.

The National Resources Defense Council works to safeguard the earth - its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.
My good friend David Stookey recently published Climate-Proof Your Personal Finances: How (And Where) To Safeguard Your Family's Budget and Lifestyle. It is available on Amazon.
Alliance for Climate Education

Subscribe to a high-quality newspaper. The NY Times and the Washington Post are exceptional. Since the president-elect is threatening libel laws, publicly lambasting respected publications etc. etc., these papers will need extra support. If you can't swing it, there's this.
Women's Rights
Planned Parenthood, sign the pledge, donate, be an escort.
Center for Reproductive Rights, donate, report a rights violation, call on Congress to support the Women's Health Protection Act.
Find your local abortion fund, donate, volunteer by providing rides and housing for women seeking abortion.
Women will have their reproductive rights challenged. We also need to make clear to young girls that although a man who laughingly admitted to sexually assaulting women is now president, sexual assault is not fucking ok.
Girls for a Change, a non-profit organization supporting and inspiring girls of color.

Civil Rights
Advanced Civil Liberties Union, an organization that works in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend liberty for everyone. Sign their pledge, donate, "like" your state's chapter on Facebook, Twitter, etc. They give notice of upcoming marches, resources, etc.
NAACP, ensuring the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights to all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.
Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that combats hate, intolerance, and discrimination through education and litigation. Sign their pledge, donate.
Volunteer to accompany fearful people on public transportation. New Yorkers are already doing this.
Donate to trans people, help them obtain legal name and gender changes.
The Trevor Project, who provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who strives to implement programs that are structured to bring Latinos into the mainstream of American political and socio-economic life.

Volunteer/donate to refugee organizations in your city.
International Refugee Assistance Project, they organize law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced people.

Get involved with your local government
Find your county's chapter of your preferred political party and get on an email list. Do the same for your state's branch. Volunteer, donate.
Run for school board, influence the next generation.
Emily's List supports pro-choice Democratic women in elections at the local and national level. Find out who is running, donate, volunteer.

Get involved with national government
There's still a chance to help flip a senate seat in an upcoming December 10th vote in Louisiana.
Brady Campaign, an organization committed to keeping guns out of the wrong hands. This organization is important on local, state, and national levels.

Tell people this is not ok
Call your local representatives and Senators to express outrage over Trump's hiring of Steve Bannon, a white nationalist, to White House Chief Strategist. If you're anxious about calling, here's a script.
Showing Up for Racial Justice is just for you, white people! This organization organizes, mobilizes, and educates white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. aka: help educate your piece of shit neighbors.

Continue to educate yourself
Books that have helped me:
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Feminism and Pop Culture by Andi Zeisler. Zeisler is the founder of Bitch magazine, a quarterly Portland-based magazine dedicated to feminism and pop culture. Zeisler's Twitter feed is always excellent.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (fiction)
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (historical fiction)
Bitch Planet, by Kelly Sue DeConnick (fiction), an ongoing comic series. Her twitter feed is outstanding as well.

Recent films and television programs:
13th, available on Netflix. Connecting the dots between slavery and incarceration.
Before the Flood, Leonardo DiCaprio's Nat Geo climate change documentary. This was first available on YouTube, but I think has since been taken down. I'm sure it's somewhere if you poke around on the internet.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Sunday nights on HBO. The show just ended for the year, but previous episodes are always relevant.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Monday thru Thursday night on Comedy Central. Previous night episodes are made available immediately on Comedy Central's website.

Still can't make up your mind? Head to Holy Fuck the Election to find a cause suited just for you. 

And let's just end this with collective fingers crossed for Ruth Bader Ginsburg in having a very healthy (and alive) four years.