Reading Formosa Betrayed on 2/28

I am in the middle of reading Formosa Betrayed. I had hoped to finish today, but it did not happen. That’s partially because it is about a destruction of society, economy, and mass violation of human rights which was completely preventable.

I wished I had read this book years ago. I knew the broad outlines of what had happened, but there is a big difference between knowing the general flow of events, and knowing the details.

Today, of course is Èr-Èr-Bā, which is Mandarin for ‘2-2-8’ as in ‘February 28’. This is a public holiday in Taiwan, and I am sure many Taiwanese people have enjoyed their four-day weekends. (I briefly mentioned Èr-Èr-Bā in this post).

This is also the 70th anniversary of the February 28th Incident, also known as the February 28th Massacre. That is why this is a public holiday in Taiwan. To this day, new information and documents about the ‘incident’ continue to be released. For example, just recently, a letter sent among the main perpetrators of the massacre has been made public.

Formosa Betrayed is one of the best historical documents of the ‘incident’. I remember a Taiwanese man in Chiayi explaining to me how important Formosa Betrayed is. For decades, any Taiwanese person who dared to talk about the ‘incident’ would be, at best, censored, and at worst, would be tortured and killed and have their family members punished as well. To this day, there are Taiwanese people who are reluctant to talk about what their families experienced during Èr-Èr-Bā. That is why no Taiwanese witness has written a book like Formosa Betrayed. George Kerr, as an American, was safe from censorship and threats of violence, and that is how he, as a firsthand witness of Èr-Èr-Bā, was able to write and publish a book about it.

As an American, George Kerr does have a pro-American bias. I suspect that, if some Taiwanese witness had managed to write a book, it would not have been as pro-American as Formosa Betrayed. However, as an American, George Kerr had a better understanding of the U.S. government’s role in Èr-Èr-Bā than a Taiwanese witness would have been likely to have. And one of the new insights I am getting from Formosa Betrayed is just how badly the U.S. government messed up this situation. And that is one of the main reasons why this book is relevant to Americans, not just Taiwanese.

The U.S. government continues to make the same types of mistakes which are described in the book. Sometimes it makes those mistakes with regards to other countries, but since this is February 28th, I am going to focus on U.S.-Taiwan policy. Living Taiwan and observing how American media reports on Taiwan was eye-opening … in the sense of learning just how much fail there is in American media (both mainstream and alternative media, though mainstream media can do much more damage to Taiwan). I was in Taiwan when the New York Times decided to spew this load of dangerous crap (and if you do not understand how that editorial is dangerous crap – you really, really need to read Formosa Betrayed, though if you do not have time to read it, accepting that Taiwan belongs to Taiwanese people, and that Taiwanese people ought to decide what happens to Taiwan, not the United States and especially not China, is a step in the right direction).

In U.S. politics, there is a narrative that the United States is always the imperialist bad-guy, that the United States is uniquely responsible for international wrongs, etc. Sometimes the United States is the bad guy, and is responsible for international wrongs, but to present the United States as uniquely evil is as much a form of American exceptionalism as the line of thought which presents the United States as uniquely good and never wrong. Formosa Betrayed lays out how the ‘China-Firsters’, who kept on insisting that the United States ought to give Taiwan to China in spite of the lack of a solid sovereign claim, and that the United States ought not to intervene in the way China administered Taiwan in 1945-1947 because China was an oppressed Third-World country, actually enabled the Chinese war-criminals who pillaged and looted Taiwan, and stripped the Taiwanese people of even the limited legal rights they had under Japanese rule.

There are still too many ‘China Firsters’ who have influence in the U.S. government today. And there are too many people in the U.S. media, mainstream or alternative media, who want to enable China to annex Taiwan again. To them, it is not a problem that the overwhelming majority of Taiwanese do not want to be annexed by China. They do not want the mass looting which happened in the 1940s to be repeated. They do not want the massacres which happened in the 1940s to be repeated. They don’t want a repeat of the White Terror. And yes, I think those things are entirely possible if China were allowed to annex Taiwan again.

Even when I was living in Taiwan – specifically, the part of main island which likely be targeted first if China ever invades Taiwan (the first line of defence, of course, are the outer islands, not the main island) – I was never at risk the way my neighbors were. If an invasion had happened, I would have run back to the United States as quickly as possible, and option not available to most Taiwanese. I would not have had to live with the long-term consequences of an annexation. However, even though I was at less risk, spending years living in a place with the threat of military invasion hanging over one’s head … has affected the way I think about war and politics. Living among people who have lived with this type of threat all their lives, who believe the question of a China-Taiwan war is a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’ also had an impact. It is not easy to describe the shift which happened, aside from saying that it has made me more skeptical of mainstream American politics than I would have been otherwise.

This post is not the most brilliant thing which will be said about Èr-Èr-Bā. It’s not even as worthwhile as this this speech by a Taiwanese-American addressing other Taiwanese-Americans at UC Berkeley. But it what I have to offer.

Advertisements

I don’t know what to call this post, but this post discusses anti-Jewish bigotry, anti-atheist bigotry, rhetoric, Steve Bannon, and at the very end, asexuality

This is for the February 2017 Carnival of Aces.

This is related to asexuality (or at least I think it is, you are free to disagree with me) but it is going to take a while for me to bring asexuality into this post.

I am Jewish. My mother’s family is Jewish (my father’s family is not Jewish, but that’s beside the point). My Jewish family has very diverse political views, and as such, we do not all agree about recent political events in the United States (for one thing, some of us are Americans, and some of us are not, which in itself tends to cause some differences in opinion). However, as far as I know, none of us has felt threatened as Jews because of the election of Trump. Furthermore, even given our varied political opinions, to the extent that I know my relatives views, we consider attempts to present Trump, whose daughter and grandchildren are Jews, and whose Jewish son-in-law is one of his most trusted advisers, as specifically an anti-Jewish bigot as something which delegitimizes the critique which is making that claim. Specifically speaking of myself, when someone lists ‘antisemitism’ as a reason to oppose Trump, I take that as a sign to consider their arguments which increased skepticism. And when a non-Jew tells me personally that I ought to feel scared as a Jew because of Trump without backing it up with reasoning, and especially without listening to me as a Jew … well, I don’t know how to describe the feeling, but it ain’t a good feeling.

Around the time of the election, I encountered a lot of claims that Steve Bannon is ‘antisemitic’. Even though I think most people who say this are claiming that Steve Bannon is bigoted against all semitic people, not just Jews, I am going to use the term ‘anti-Jewish’ rather than ‘anitsemitic’ for clarity, except when I am quoting somebody else.

As a I Jew, I was very interested in learning about Steve Bannon’s ‘antisemiticism’, so I did research. It was very frustrating that most of the people who were claiming that Steve Bannon is anti-Jewish did not present evidence. Sometimes, when I clicked a link which presumably would present evidence of Bannon’s anti-Jewish bigotry, it was just another website claiming that Steve Bannon is ‘antisemitic’ without presenting evidence (to be fair, the online essay I had intended to use an example has apparently made an edit an no longer says anything specific about Steve Bannon).

Ultimately, the evidence I did uncover was:

– During a divorce proceeding, Bannon’s ex-wife said that Bannon did not want their daughters going to schools with Jews, and Bannon denied the allegation. I think the allegations that Bannon committed domestic violence are more disturbing than the part about choosing a school for their daughters.
– Breitbart News has a lot of anti-Jewish bigoted readers, and a lot of anti-Jewish bigotry in the comments. I admit that I have, at most, read one article on Breitbart years back, so I have not looked at this evidence first-hand. However, I know that I have sometimes seen anti-Jewish screeds in the comments of progressive websites which I do not consider to have an anti-Jewish slant. I’m not going to judge a publication just based on its commentariat. Furthermore, during my attempt to find evidence of Steve Bannon’s anti-Jewish bigotry, I learned that Breitbart News was founded by Jews and has hired a lot of Jews so … it is going to be really difficult to convince me that a news organization which has so many Jews working for it is bigoted against Jews.

Mind you, my conclusion at this point is ‘the evidence that Steve Bannon is bigoted against Jews is insufficient’ not ‘Steve Bannon is *not* bigoted against Jews’. I think it is still possible that he is, and if anyone is aware of further evidence, feel free to bring it to my attention.

I also find it amazing that people are focusing so much on Bannon’s (and by extention, Trump’s) anti-Jewish bigotry when there are so many firmer grounds to critique them. I am going to bring up a grounds to critique Bannon which a) is much easier to substantiate with evidence and b) which almost nobody in the media I read has brought up – I discovered it on my own.

A few months back, I read what Steve Bannon said at a Q&A at a conference in the Vatican in 2014, and I re-read it while preparing this post. Anti-Jewishism? Steven Bannon does use the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ repeatedly, which is a problem because, well, I am going to quote the essay “The Superseded Jew”:

“Judeo-Christian”, of course, is a nonsense phrase that is 100% Christian and, where it does happen to overlap with Jewish perspectives, does so completely by accident. And where Jewish ideology clashes even a little bit with Christian hegemony, it is immediately jettisoned from the pantheon. So we get Katherine Harris telling folks that adhering to “Judeo-Christian values” means only electing Christian legislators (presumably, not Jews), and Duncan Hunter explaining that the reason Israel can have gay soldiers but America can’t is because the latter’s combat troops have, you guessed it, “Judeo-Christian values.” Effectively, the “Judeo-Christian” concept nails Jews from both ends: conservatives get to claim Jews (against our will) to obtain faux-diversity, liberals happily cede us to them so they can bash us as part of the oppressive Christian/conservative power structure they’re warring against. What’s lost in all of this is the simple fact that Christians and Jews are different. Ask 100 people about the “traditional Judeo-Christian position” on abortion or the death penalty. I guarantee 90% of the time you’ll get an answer reflective of traditional Christian conservatism – but one that will have nothing to do with the way those issues are treated in classical Jewish texts … Ultimately, the refusal to situate Jews inside their own narrative and experience, instead defining them as mere extensions of Whiteness or Europeaness or what have you, is a replication of the supersessionist ideology in which Jews were stripped of their subjectivity as human actors.

If anyone wants a longer-form explanation of the problem with the term ‘Judeo-Christian’, there is the essay “There Is No Such Thing as Judeo-Christian Values”.

However, the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ is also often used by people with good intentions who are simply uninformed, so the use of the term is not sufficient for me to label someone as ‘anti-Jewish’.

Here is a quote from that Steve Bannon speech (bolding is mine):

But the thing that got us out of it, the organizing principle that met this, was not just the heroism of our people — whether it was French resistance fighters, whether it was the Polish resistance fighters, or it’s the young men from Kansas City or the Midwest who stormed the beaches of Normandy, commandos in England that fought with the Royal Air Force, that fought this great war, really the Judeo-Christian West versus atheists, right?

Here’s another quote:

The other tendency [which is very disturbing] is an immense secularization of the West. And I know we’ve talked about secularization for a long time, but if you look at younger people, especially millennials under 30, the overwhelming drive of popular culture is to absolutely secularize this rising iteration.

This is clear anti-atheist bigotry. It is not at all subtle.

I admit, these days I pay almost no attention to atheist media/blogs, so for all I know, they are discussing this in depth (or screaming their heads off about this, which I think is justified in this case). However, a lot of the claims that Bannon is ‘antisemitic’ is not coming from Jewish media. And when I read/hear many ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ list all of the vulnerable groups which Bannon and the new administration threaten, such as Muslims, immigrants, LGBT people, Jews, women, disabled people, etc. – I do not recall any listing atheists as a vulnerable/targeted group.

I have spent months pondering this – why exaggerate the case that Bannon (and the Trump administration) is bigoted against Jews, and ignore the case that it is bigoted against atheists? Ultimately, I cannot read minds, but I do have a hunch.

People who oppose Bannon and his ilk want him to be an anti-Jewish bigot because then they can rhetorically tie him to the anti-Jewish bigotry of the Nazis and the Holocaust. In other words, they are trying to invoke Hitler as Boogeyman, rather than actually consider the implications for Jews alive today (if these people have solid evidence of Bannon’s anti-Jewish bigotry that I am completely unaware of, then I retract this comment).

It is true that some Jewish media publications are among those claiming that Bannon is an anti-Jewish bigot. To me, that smells just like when Jews who defend Israel’s far-right policies claim that anyone who critiques those policies is an anti-Jewish bigot. Those right-wing Israelis (and allies) are also trying to invoke the legacy of the Holocaust to silence their critics. I find it sad that some left-wing Jews are now sinking to their level.

By contrast, including atheists as a vulnerable group who is specifically targeted by Bannon’s rhetoric does not bring any such rhetorical advantage. On the contrary, many Americans (mistakenly) believe that Hitler was an atheist, and (not-so-mistakenly) associate atheism with Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong.

The Democratic Party (and ‘liberals’ in general) only took up the cause of black people, LGBT people, disabled people, etc. because those people forced the Democrats/liberals to take their concerns seriously. And the Democrat establishment still only take those concerns seriously when marginalized people hold their feet to the fire. For whatever reason, atheists have not pulled this off yet. I think that is why atheists are not typically in the lists of vulnerable groups who Democrats and/or liberals supposedly intend to protect. This is not to say that atheists are any less deserving of protection than other marginalized groups, simply that we (yes, I am an atheist) have not gained the symbolic protection of the liberal elite yet (and LGBT people only got that ‘protection’ very recently, and that protection is still very … shaky).

Okay, I think it’s finally time to explain what the heck this has to do with asexuality.

Though more and more ‘social justice’ types are including aces among the marginalized groups they stand with, it is still more of the exception than the rule in ‘social justice’ circles. Mostly, we are still ignored, and sometimes deliberately excluded. And we are not even on the radar of mass political movements/ideologies. Often, asexuals do not conveniently fit into the rhetorical paradigms which people are used to using, such as the paradigms of ‘sexual liberation’, just as atheists do not fit as well as Jews into the rhetoric which some of Bannon’s critics want to use.

Also, a lot of the rhetoric used by trolling ‘alt-right’ types, such as calling people who were devastated by Trump’s election ‘special snowflakes’, is rhetoric which I first became aware of when people, often people who identified as ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’, were using it against aces. I do not know where this type of rhetoric originally came from, but I see common patterns.

I almost decided to sit out of this Carnival of Aces for various reasons, and I still feel that this post is rougher than I want it to be. And I feel bad about posting it on February 28 (even though it is being published on February 27 in my timezone) and wished I had finished this a little earlier. I hope I will at least be able to write a post more appropriate for the 70th anniversary of the February 28th Massacre and publish it before February 28 ends in my time zone. However, I decided it was still better to put this out in its flawed form than to keep these thoughts stewing in my mind unexpressed.

Review: Finding Your Feet by Cass Lennox

The cover of Finding Your Feet by Cass Lennox

This is my final review for Asexual Fiction from Riptide Publishing Month.

What is this story about?

Evie, at the beginning of her two-week visit to Toronto, ends up unintentionally auditioning to appear in the performance by a queer dance company for Toronto Pride. During the practice sessions, Evie and her partner, professional dancer Tyler, become emotionally closer. However, given that Evie is asexual, and Tyler is a heterosexual recovering from a very emotionally abusive relationship with a girlfriend who shamed him for being trans, are they compatible?

What sexual and/or violent content is there in this story?

There is discussion of characters’ sex lives/histories, but no sex scenes. IIRC, there is no violence, but I will not swear to that.

Tell me more about this novel.

The bit of this novel which I remember best is:

She walked to her bag as Gigi imitated an inept Mark. “‘Bro, I’m, like, bugging. Dude, I’ve, like, never danced with a dude before.’ I swear to God, if he calls me ‘bro’ one more time, I’m going to grand jete his nuts into Lake Ontario.”

“He’s trying to be nice,” Tyler said. “That’s how straight guys act when they want to be friends.”

“How the fuck would you know?”

Tyler exhaled sharply. “Jesus, Gigi. Who the hell tied your panties in a knot?” Tension filled the room as the two men stared each other down.

Bloody hell.

The context of course is that Tyler is a straight man. He is ‘eligible’ for belonging to a ‘queer’ dance company because he is trans, not because of his sexual orientation (and he does say in the novel that he would rather that dance companies did not cast him just so that they can tick off the ‘trans’ box, but he’ll take professional opportunities where he can take them).

This is also the first work of fiction I have read (IIRC) in a contemporary setting where the trans character’s family is very supporting of the character’s transition, and even though they don’t understand everything, they sincerely try to do what is best for him.

Generally, though, this novel felt like it was a series of scenes put in chronological order rather than a story. Okay, I know the overall story was about how Evie and Tyler get together but … they simply seemed so compatible, and the ‘obstacles’ to their getting together just seemed false to me. I mean come on, Tyler does not know that Evie is planning to return to Toronto for school because when she said so he did not hear it / forgot about it, even though everybody else present remembered it. Seriously?

Asexuality?

On the asexuality content scale (1 = most asexual content, 10 = most asexual content), I would rate this as a 5.

First of all, Evie is asexual. Tyler has to get some idea of what being asexual means to Evie, just as Evie has to get some idea of what being a trans man means to Tyler.

Evie states that she has had sex before, and that even though she does not seek sex, she does not mind doing it sometimes.

This novel is also one of the more notable instances of the Ace Group trope. Evie is an ace who is active on Tumblr, and she met her host, Sarah (who is gaybeard-the-great, a Tumblr user mentioned in Blank Spaces) via the ace Tumblr network. There is a meetup of Tumblr aces in Toronto during the novel, and someone at the meetup tells Evie that she is doing it wrong because she has not come out to her family as ace.

Vaughn, the ace protagonist from Blank Spaces, is also a significant supporting character in this novel. He gives Tyler a reason to feel insecure/jealous, because he clearly gets along well with Evie, and Tyler is afraid that, because Vaughn is asexual, Evie is going to prefer going out with him than going out with himself.

Was this written by an asexual?

Yes, Cass Lennox is asexual.

Hey Sara, do you like this novel?

I definitely like parts of it but … after reading Blank Spaces, I had high expectations, so I was so I was disappointed to find that this novel is less cohesive and tightly written. Do I like this novel? Yes and no.

Reflections on Overshoot by William R. Catton Jr., Part 1

I have tried to show the real nature of humanity’s predicament, not because understanding its nature will enable us to escape it, but because if we do not understand it, we shall continue to act and react in ways that make it worse.

– William R. Catton Jr., from the Preface of Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change

First, I shall summarize the main ideas of Overshoot

– Humans are part of the local ecosystem, therefore to understand human society one must use the ecological paradigm, that is, look at humans the same way one would look at any other species in an ecosystem.
– All species, including humans, have a carrying capacity within the ecosystem. The carrying capacity is the largest possible stable population of that species the ecosystem can support.
– According to the ecological paradigm, humans have been able to greatly increase the carrying capacity of the ecosystem for humans by the takeover method, that is, taking biological resources which were previously exploited by different species. For example, when humans figured out how to use fire to make food more digestible, they used wood which otherwise would have gone to feed fungi. Thus, humans took a part of the biosphere which previously had been occupied by wood-consuming fungi.
– Many technological advances have increased the ecosystem’s carrying capacity for humans via the takeover method
– The takeover method is sustainable because it is about seizing a share of renewable resources from other species. Because the resources are renewable, the increase in carrying capacity is semi-permanent.
– In the year 1492, European technology allowed them to have a much higher carrying capacity per acre of arable land than the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Thus, the discovery of the Americas meant a dramatic increase of carrying capacity for Europeans, creating the ‘Age of Exuberance’. By contrast, since the indigenous human population of the Americas was already at the carrying capacity of the Americas ~with indigenous technology~, the coming of the Europeans meant that they would be crowded out of their ecological niche.
– Humans can use an increase in carrying capacity to either increase their population and/or to increase their material standards of living
– There is a limit to how much life the Earth can sustain, thus the takeover method is ultimately limited. Humans cannot use more than 100% of the biosphere, and in practice, trying to get even close to that would cause such ecological damage that it would actually decrease the ecosystem’s long-term carrying capacity for humans. In short, there is no second Earth full of resources to exploit.
– Some species use drawdown rather than takeover to TEMPORARILY increase their carrying capacity. Drawdown is when a species uses resources much faster than they can be renewed. These species drawdown the renewable resources until the resources are exhausted, which leaves the species with a population that greatly exceeds the carrying capacity. This leads to a mass die-off.
– Humans have also used drawdown during the industrial revolution – we have used nonrenewable resources such as fossil fuels, mineral deposits, etc, to enable a population boom.
– Humans have mistaken drawdown for takeover, and temporary increase in carrying capacity for a permanent increase. This is why people speak of ‘producing’ fossil fuels, when ‘extracting’ fossil fuels is a more accurate description of what is happening.
– With the use of drawdown, some humans have increased their material standards of living so much that they are now ‘homo colossus’ rather than ‘homo sapiens’ (Catton does not mean that ‘homo colossus’ is biologically a different species, it’s just a phrase he uses to distinguish high resource consumption humans from low resource consumption humans)
– Humans are already in overshoot (when a population exceeds its carrying capacity) (note: this book was published in 1980), and there is going to be a mass die-off. It is too late to prevent this.
– When a species is near or above its carrying capacity, there is great deal of intra-species competition. Humans are experiencing this with their many human-on-human conflicts.
– However, even though it is too late to stop human overshoot, there are still things humans can do to make the overshoot less bad. For example, humans can reduce their resource usage, can reduce births so the overshoot is less extreme. However, the most important thing humans can do is understand that this has been caused by ecological forces which affect all species, and is not caused by a malignant, evil Other. By understanding this as the work of fate (Catton has a nice definition of fate which does not depend on belief in theistic or supernatural entities) rather than the work of the Other, humans might be able to avoid great wars and genocides.
– People are at various stages of accepting the ecological paradigm, namely, Ostrichism (There’s nothing wrong!), Cynicism (None of this matters!), Cosmeticism (we can fix this with birth control, recycling, and environmental protection laws), Cargoism (technology will fix this!), and Realism (overshoot is here, and we must adapt as best we can). Adopting ‘Realism’ will lead to the best outcome for humans (I have to note the neat rhetorical trick of labelling people who agree with the writer as ‘Realists’ and everybody else as, er, look at the labels yourself).

This summary is long enough to be a post in itself, so I will start discussing what *I* think about all this in the next part (well, I already expressed some of my thoughts in this post).

Thoughts on Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress

Congress is the most powerful branch of the national government of the United States. It is also the most transparent and democratic branch. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, according to Neil M. Barofsky’s important book Bailout, Congress is also the least corrupt branch of the national government (if you care about American politics, I highly recommend reading Bailout). Given that Congress is a) the most powerful and b) the most subject to democratic control, it seems to me the obvious place to push for change.

This is part of why I was so puzzled that people said that the Democratic Party was in much better shape than the Republican Party in October 2016. First of all, unlike nearly everybody in my social circle, who were all certain that Clinton was going to win, I was expecting a close election and that either Clinton or Trump could win it. It turns out I was right and they were wrong (that does not mean I’m happy about being right in this case). However, aside from the Presidential election, the Democrats had not had a majority in the House since 2010, and have been bleeding seats in state legislatures all over the country. Even if Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin had given their electoral college votes to Clinton, it would not have changed the outcomes of the congressional and state legislature elections.

I find it frustrating that people focus so much on the presidency that they ignore so much of what is happening in Congress, let alone the state governments. For example, when I went to vote in 2008, I was shocked by how crowded it was. There were not nearly so many people at the polls in 2006, when there was an election for the governor. The thing is, with the way the electoral college is set up, voting for POTUS in California does not make a difference, and this has been true ever since California has been a state. In other words, California votes have never mattered for electing a POTUS. California votes do matter a great deal for electing the governor, and the governor (or, as we called him in 2008, the ‘governator’) has more power over California affairs than the POTUS. Granted, the infamous Proposition 8 was also on the ballot in 2008, but had Proposition 8 been on the 2006 ballot rather than the 2008 ballot, would the crowds have shown up in 2006 instead of 2008? I will never know.

Personally, I think the fact that a) the Republicans control almost enough state legislatures to pass constitutional amendments without Democrats and b) the way some state legislatures are acting to dismantle democracy (most notably in North Carolina, where they elected a new governor because their previous governor was unpopular, and the legislature responded by gutting the newly elected governor of his powers) is scarier than the election of Trump. The election of Trump, in itself, is (flawed) democracy in action, not a dismantling of democracy (the electoral college is a problem, but an old one, not a new one) (what Trump may do in office to undermine democracy is something else). A lame duck state legislature gutting the powers of the newly elected governor is a direct dismantlement of democracy. Furthermore, I found out just today that the Arizona Senate has voted for a bill which would allow police to arrest people organizing peaceful protests, even if those protest organizers have not harmed anyone or damaged any property.

However, I don’t think there is much I can do about the North Carolina or Arizona state governments. I can do some small things about the California state government, and on that note, a PSA for fellow Californians: tell Governor Jerry Brown to ask CALPERS board member Bill Slaton to resign. Even though California votes don’t count for POTUS elections, the California government does control CALPERS, one of the most powerful investors in the world. Arguably, having control over CALPERS grants more power than a pile of electoral college votes. The problem now is that CALPERS is going rogue and behaving in a way which is harmful to Californians, which is why citizens need to intervene.

I also can do some small things about the national legislature, Congress.

So, with all that said, I have great interest in what will happen in the 2018 midterm elections. And two groups, the Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress have come to my attention. These are two groups which are starting to work now to change Congress in the 2018 elections.

I agree with most of the Justice Democrats’ platform, and the parts I disagree with are issues I am willing to compromise on. In other words, I would be very happy to see a majority of Congress adopt this type of platform. However, since they are a new group, there is relatively little information about them. I will keep a critical eye on them.

As the Justice Democrats’ said in one of their emails (yes, I am on their email list because I want to learn more about them), their endgame is different from that of Brand New Congress (BNC), but they have decided to work together because the work that needs to be done is so overwhelming that they need partners. BNC, based on what I was able to learn, seems to be run by former campaigners for Bernie Sanders. I prefer the platform of the Justice Democrats over the platform of BNC, but the BNC platform is also a significant improvement over status quo.

The thing which most concerned me about the BNC when I first learned about them was that it seemed they were going to recruit almost exclusively from people who have no experience with elected office. Now, I see on their website that they are not going to exclude all people with elected office experience, but I’m still concerned on their drive to recruit people without an elected office track record. Why? I could take the easy way out by just saying “look at Trump, the first POTUS with no prior experience in elected office” but I will explain. First of all, without a record of what a candidate has done in elected office, it’s much harder to predict what they will do when elected. Second, inexperienced people tend to be less competent than experienced people. Inexperienced politicians are more likely to cave to oligarchs. This happened in California when term limits were imposed – the California legislature got a flood of inexperienced legislatures who were so clueless that they depended on lobbyists to ‘help’ them do their jobs far more than the incumbents they replaced. Yes, many of the incumbents were corrupt, but they at least had a more independent power base, and thus greater leeway to tell big money interests “Fuck You.”

That is not to say that all members of Congress need to have experience in elected office. I think there are teachers, nurses, factory workers, etc. who would be fine congressional representatives (especially if they have experience with union politics). However, I am worried about what would happen if the majority of Congress did not have prior experience with elected office.

On the other hand, given the powerful antipathy voters feel towards ‘career politicians’ these days, maybe recruiting primarily ‘ordinary people’ to be candidates is a good strategy for winning elections.

I am also concerned about the centralized campaign that BNC proposes. On the one hand, maybe that is exactly the kind of thing which is necessary to win elections. However, my concern is that it will become too centralized, and power will be concentrated in too few hands. Then again, power is already concentrated in too few hands, namely in the hands the oligarchs, so perhaps being ruled by whoever controls BNC will be a major improvement, even if power is too concentrated.

BNC says they are going to prepare legislation this year, and that it will be released to the public before the 2018 elections, and that all of their candidates will pledge to vote for the legislation that BNC drafts. I look forward to seeing what BNC will come up with. Or maybe that is too passive an approach. Maybe it’s better if I tell them what I want, even though BNC currently is not soliciting from the general public what the general public wants in their legislation. And that is also a bit of a concern for me. They’re drafting candidates, but they are not soliciting input for what voters want to put into their legislation? Hmmmm.

Review: Far From Home by Lorelie Brown

The cover of Far From Home by Lorelie Brown

This is the penultimate review for my Asexual Fiction from Riptide Publishing Month.

What is this story about?

Rachel is recovering from anorexia and also has a pile of student loans burdening her finances. Pari is a lesbian from Tamil Nadu who wants a green card (she would rather have U.S. citizenship, but she will settle for a green card). In order to get a green card, Pari needs to be married to a U.S. citizen for at least two years, and it has to look like it is a marriage based on feelings rather than, say, trying to get a green card. So many people know that Pari is a lesbian that the INS will be suspicious if she marries a man, but since her romantic/sexual relationships have generally been unstable, she does not trust a marriage to another lesbian to last two years. Thus, the solution for her is to marry a straight woman who has an entirely nonromantic reason to stick with her for years. And as it so happens, Pari can help Rachel with her ongoing student loan debt.

Of course, this is all based on the assumption that Rachel is straight. Which she is, of course, because she has only had sexual relations with men, even though she was never very into sex with men, and she hasn’t had any sexual relationship for years. Yeah, Rachel is even more heterosexual than Heterosexual Jill.

What sexual and/or violent content is there in this story?

There are long very detailed sex scenes in this story. IIRC, there is no violence.

Tell me more about this novel.

Yeah, it’s one of those stories where a marriage of convenience conveniently turns into a marriage based on romance. As such, I did not feel it was particularly skillful. Okay, yes, demisexuality is a plausible mechanism for how someone who is not sexually attracted to someone else at first becomes very sexually attracted to them later. It was Pari’s side of the equation which I had trouble buying – though we are told that Pari does not want to marry a lesbian because she wants to avoid romantic/sexual drama in her marriage, I don’t know … it felt like the writer was forcing the character’s behavior. I think that it would have been more convincing if we had actually met one of Pari’s ex-girlfriends, and if the story had shown why the relationship was so dysfunctional that Pari would want to avoid sex/romance in a marriage.

Generally, I thought there were many parts of the story, not just the motivation for Pari pursuing marriage the way she does, which were not sufficiently developed. And generally, things work out too conveniently for the characters – rather than overcoming obstacles, the obstacles generally just disappear for a while.

My favorite part of the story was Pari’s mother, Niharika. I don’t know enough about Tamil culture to know how plausible Niharika’s behavior is, but this is one of my favorite bits of the story:

“When will the wedding be?” Niharika crosses her arms over her chest and asks with an extra handful of displeasure sprinkled over the top.

Pari squeezes my hand, and I can feel my hope as if it were a radio wave between them. “We aren’t going to make a big deal of it. We’re meeting at the courthouse on Wednesday.”

“No! Absolutely not.” Niharika slashes a hand through the air so decisively that the camera wavers. “Already this will be . . .” She lets the sentence fade, and I breathe a sigh of relief for Pari’s heart. There are only so many words that a daughter’s feelings can ignore. “You will have a real marriage.”

“A traditional wedding?” Pari seems doubtful. “I don’t think that’s wise.”

“You would ignore even more of our traditions?”

Yes, Niharika thinks that her daughter getting married in a courthouse instead of having a traditional Tamil wedding is even more scandalous than her daughter marrying a woman. From her perspective, it’s bad enough that ‘America’ made her daughter want to marry a woman, but foregoing the traditional wedding would be taking things too far. Therefore, Pari is going to have a traditional Tamil same-sex wedding.

Niharika’s wedding preparations are generally entertaining. There is also this bit:

“And red,” Niharika adds. “We must have red. It’s for fertility.”

Pari rolls her eyes, but only facing me, where her mother can’t see it. “We’re two women. Fertility is going to be difficult.”

“You have double the fertility.” She nods decisively, as if this is how she’s come to grips with the concept of her daughter, the lesbian. “It’s good luck.”

I also could not help but notice that Pari’s aunt is called Aishwarya. The only Tamil movie I have ever seen (yep, I’ve only seen one Tamil movie, which gives you an idea of just how shallow my knowledge of Tamil culture is) is Kandukondain Kandukondain, which stars Aishwayra Rai. I wonder whether the writer named the aunt specifically after Aishwarya Rai, or whether Aishwarya is simply a common Tamil name.

Asexuality?

On the asexuality content scale (1 = least asexual content, 10 = most asexual content), I rate this story as a 2.

This is the key passage:

“Damn right.” Nikki spins again. “Do you ever see anyone, boy or girl, walking down the street and think, ‘Gee, I’d like to bone them’?”

“Thanks for that descriptive phrase, but no. I don’t.” I bounce my knees. “I think my sex drive is defective.”

“It’s not defective to be demisexual,” Skylar offers.

“What?” I sit up. “What is that?”

She stops what she’s doing with the autoclave and looks at Nikki. “I thought you were going to talk to her?”

“What?” Nikki’s eyes are big, and she throws her hands up. “It’s not my job to be her sexual counselor.”

“Um, yes, it is.” I wish I had something to throw at her. Just like pillow level or something though. I’m annoyed, but not murderous. “It’s in the ‘best friend’ description.”

“I missed the description. Was that in a memo?”

“It was carved on the back of the locket I gave you. You know, the one that was half a heart?”
“Didn’t happen. You’re making things up again.”

“Maybe.” I look at Skylar instead. “What is a demisexual?”

“It’s a descriptor. Like queer or bi, except this one means on the sexual to asexual spectrum. You’re somewhere closer to asexual, but not all the way there. Demisexuals usually only want a sexual relationship with someone they already have an emotional connection with.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“Totally isn’t,” Nikki says. “And I didn’t tell you because it’s just a word. You do you, ya know? But it seems like maybe that’s you. I mean, I can’t remember you ever just locking eyes with anyone and thinking they’re droolworthy.”

“No, that doesn’t sound like me.” Part of that’s because I start worrying that sex would mean them seeing me at my ickiest, though.

So here is the Allo Savior Complex again, though at least in this example Nikki is pushing back against Skylar taking it upon herself to label someone else.

Rachel’s discomfort with sex is tied with her experiences with anorexia. I’m no expert on anorexia, but it makes sense to me that it would be difficult to sort out whether her lack of inclination can be attributed to anorexia, and what can be attributed to possibly being under the ace umbrella.

However, like other parts of the story, I felt the demisexual storyline was underdeveloped.

Was this written by an asexual?

I don’t know.

Hey Sara, do you like this novel?

I like the scenes with Niharika, but other than that, this novel is a solid ‘meh’ for me.

Review: “Making Love” by Aidan Wayne

makinglove_500x750

This is another novella I’m reviewing for Asexual Fiction from Riptide Publishing Month.

What’s the story, Wishbone?

No, just no. Do not put that theme song in my head.

Fine, go ahead and write your own blurb, just like you typically do for these reviews.

Carla is a cupid working for Aphordite Agency. She has amazing aim for shooting her love arrows, but she is terrible at chemistry, which is why she kept on shooting arrows at an aromantic person. Then she sees a succubus, Leeta, come to the agency, looking for romantic love, and Carla’s boss is all like “No, you’re a succubus, we won’t help succubi find True Love because succubi just want easy meals, now GET OUT YOU SUCKY SUCCUBUS!!!!” This goes against Carla’s values – of course everyone deserves a chance at True Love. Thus, she makes it her mission to find True Love for Leeta.

What sexual and/or violent content is there in this story?

There is a sexual scene … whether it is a sex scene depends on how one defines such things. Also, one of the main characters is a succubus.

There is no violent content (unless a cupid shooting love arrows at people counts as violence).

Tell me more about this story.

It is, in a sense, a romantic comedy. At least, it follows some of the common rules of romantic comedies, such as when a matchmaker tries to make a match for someone else, and they keep on rejecting the matches, and the matchmaker actually feels relieved that the matches aren’t working out, you know what’s going to happen…

I actually don’t have much to say about the story.

Asexuality?

There are hints in the story that Carla is asexual, but it’s never stated explicitly, and even if Carla is asexual, well, I find the way this story presents aromanticism to be much more interesting.

Okay then, aromanticism?

On the aromantic content scale (1 = least aromantic content, 10 = most aromantic content), I rate this story as being a 3. Whereas the words ‘asexual’ and ‘ace’ are never used in the story, the word ‘aromantic’ is used multiple times. In fact, I am 80% certain that this is the first fiction story over 5,000 words I’ve read which uses the word ‘aromantic’ but does not use the words ‘asexual’ or ‘ace’.

At the beginning of the story, the anecdote of Carla futile usage of love arrows on an aromantic girl establishes that aromantic people exist.

In the story, succubi are stereotyped as all being aromantic, and this is why the agency does not even bother to try to find love matches for them. This is clearly the inverse of the situation of aromantic people – it is assumed that humans, as opposed to, say, robots or aliens from outer space, are alloromantic. At the end of the story, this comes out:

Yes! Yes, while it seems as though it’s a rarer phenomenon, what with them being an aromantic species on the whole, it looks as though romantic Sparks might be found in as many as one percent of all succubi and incubi. Statistically, that’s right around how many aromantic people exist in the world of the romantically inclined. Which is a pretty big number!

Now … is Carla aromantic? It is stated repeatedly throughout the story that Carla is bad at chemistry, and it’s hinted at that it is because she does not actually understand romance. Hmmm. And then there is this bit:

“Mm.” Leeta shifted on the couch, recrossing her legs and curling her tail. “Have you ever been in love?”

“Oh, me?” Carla laughed and waved a hand. “No, not yet. But that’s okay! A lot of cupids are late bloomers anyway.”

That bit made me think ‘hmmm’. The following passage makes it seem that Carla wants to want ‘love’ rather than simply want ‘love’.

And here we get to the mess that is discussions of ‘love’ in English. In contemporary English, ‘love’ is often assumed to mean ‘romantic love’ even when the context does not suggest that. And since this is a story about a cupid whose job is to spark romances, her culture is hyper-amantonormative.

But she does fall in love with Leeta, described thus:

Leeta was in love with her. And Carla could feel her own love pinging back to meet it. It made her feel very brave.

Is Carla romantically attracted to Leeta? Is the love she feels romantic? As a reader, I’m not sure. However, given the way Carla described her previous experience of never feeling ‘in love’ (romantic love?) for people, I suspect she is somewhere under the greyromantic umbrella.

Was this written by an asexual?

I don’t know.

Was this written by an aromantic?

I don’t know.

Hey Sara, do you like this story?

Yes, I do.

One may buy this from the Riptide Publishing Store or various eBook retailers.