Author Archives: deirdrehbrt

Guest post – Deirdre Hebert Protesting protests

When Loretta Lynch announced her response to North Carolina’s HB2, which is one of theTarget_Corporation_logo_(vector).svg most vicious anti-LGBT pieces of legislation yet passed by any State, I responded to her comments in a most visceral manner. I was literally moved to sobbing tears. Writing about my response, I was asked if I would consider writing about my experience for a Pagan periodical, which I did. You can, if you wish, read that article in an upcoming issue of Green egg.

But in writing that article, I realized there was much more to say, and some of it that was very timely.

I began to think of conversations I’ve been having in recent weeks on PaganFM. It moved me to think of the Catholic Priest, Fr. Daniel Berrigan who engaged in activism well into his 80s, and who said that he would cease his activism on the day that he was embalmed.

I have seen many companies step up for equality; companies like Paypal who elected to not build a facility in North Carolina, and companies like Target who have explicitly offered open arms to the LGBT community. In response, self-styled “Christian” organizations like Faith2Action, the American “Family” Association and other groups have taken to loud, inconsiderate and obnoxious protests at Target. They have gone so far as to send men into women’s restrooms and changing rooms in order to instil fear, and to make the case that bad things will result if transgender people are permitted to pee in safety. They need to do this, because there are no reported cases of transgender individuals actually harming women or children in restrooms; they need to invent their own to make anything that resembles a plausible case to support their assertions.

Still, despite a complete lack of evidence that transgender people pose a threat to women or children, these people continue their protests. There is ample evidence in cities and counties that have implemented policies permitting access to public facilities for transgender individuals, that the fear these people are peddling is entirely irrational and unfounded. But these people, indoctrinated in a faith tradition of hatred and intolerance will not relent. They need enemies to fight, and having lost the battle over same-sex marriage, they are off to war against the next group of people that they can paint as abominations – as “icky”.

I’m a Pagan, in part, because I wish to celebrate diversity. I’m part of a coven that typically has about 30 – 40% transgender, or gender nonconforming participants. The freedom to be ourselves is part of what permits us to celebrate our rituals in fullness. We celebrate in fullness when we are fully alive, and fully human, and fully ourselves. Those things that cause us to hide some part of who we are in shame, are those things that hinder our ability to raise energy in circles, they separate us from our gods and goddesses. We can’t, at the same time, stand in power and stand in shame.

Activism is the means we use to stand in our own power. It’s not only a tool that we use to effect change in our societies, it’s also a tool that we use to effect change in our selves. We look up to those who take risks, who are willing to stand up for justice, for what is right. We see these people as brave. But the truth is that it is in the doing of these things that we actually BECOME brave. Activism changes not only society, but those who practice activism. It is something of an amplifier – it helps to make us more powerful versions of who and what we are.

Some of us don’t engage in activism because we are afraid of confrontation, we are afraid of up-ending the apple cart, we don’t want to be seen, we’d rather be invisible members of society who don’t call attention to ourselves. Some of us have more legitimate or more immediate concerns – we are afraid of going to jail, we fear for our physical safety. As a transgender woman, the concept of being jailed is honestly frightening. It’s one of the reasons that I’ve avoided the sort of activism that could be called civil disobedience. If I went to jail, not knowing whether I’d be stuck in a men’s cell or a women’s is truly disturbing. So I’ve taken to, for the most part, less dangerous routes of activism – calling and writing lawmakers; taking part in awareness campaigns – some of which have been quite public, but which still had the permission of local law enforcement and government officials. I engage street preachers, anti-abortionists and others, on a personal level.

But I’ve found that even this form of activism isn’t without risk. On the streets, I’ve had verbal attacks – and on the Internet, I’ve even had threats of rape and death. Fortunately, I know enough to know that the online threats are meaningless. But the first time you receive something like this, it can be unnerving. But it’s important to recognize that the only reason such threats are issued is to frighten and silence someone.

I’ve also had people try to dox and out me. And I’ve learned there is a very useful tool to completely disarm anyone who tries – and that is simple honesty. Online and in public, I’m honest and open about who I am. I’m Dee, I’m trans. I’m not ashamed of who I am. So, as when a couple of weeks ago, some idiot tried a line like “why are you talking about trans people like you aren’t one – what are you ashamed of?” when I spoke in the third person for a particular paragraph, it became more of an opportunity to show this person was an idiotic bully who simply couldn’t be bothered to read. They had, apparently visited my Facebook page and “learned” what I’m constantly open about, and somehow thought they had discovered some secret.

There was a time in my life when I was ashamed of who I was. I was filled with the self-loathing that years of indoctrination in Christian bigotry had cultivated. It nearly cost me my life, and the healing from that also took years. But I learned that when I could had recovered from that, that I was much stronger. We become trapped by fear – we believe that it is dangerous to step outside the lines – we know not what is there, and we dare not go. But when we finally break out beyond those barriers, at least when I broke out beyond those barriers – I found that the the fear didn’t actually keep me safe – it made me fragile. It was the truth and honesty that made me stronger.

The point of this is that truth is never our enemy. It is much more of a sword, a weapon which disarms our opponents.

All of this brings me to the reason I’m writing right now … this hate group, Faith2Action, is calling for protests of Target stores on June 4. I want to be at my local Target store on June 4, and if, and when these people do show up, I want to answer them directly. I want to be there with my own signs, with my own people, and if people are going to be there spreading lies and hatred, I want to be there spreading truth and love.

The hate groups are spreading the lies that permitting transgender people to pee is dangerous, where the truth is that children are more at risk at religious institutions than in bathrooms with transgender individuals. During the time that they have been protesting safe bathrooms for transgender people, multiple “Christian” pastors have been arrested for crimes against children. The only people who have committed crimes in bathrooms were heterosexual perverts, and those perverted hate-mongers who have entered bathrooms to sew hatred and discontentment.

And so, I intend to be at Target on June 4, to speak truth to hatred, and love to intolerance. I’m going to be there, and if these people show up, I’m going to speak to them. And if they don’t want to talk, then I’m going to offer a rigorous and truthful response to them. Whatever lies they offer, the truth will be told.

And I am asking anyone else who wants to get their feet wet in activism to join me. It’s pretty easy – just show up at your local Target store on June 4. And while these pesudo-Christian hate-groups are protesting, show Target shoppers what Loving, honest Pagans and trans-folk are actually about. If the hate groups are blocking doors, escort shoppers yourself. If these people are walking around stores, get in their way – disrupt them. Don’t fight them, and don’t get physical – but disrupt them. If you catch them spreading lies about trans-folk be there to offer a counter narrative. When they talk about “bathroom safety”, ask them directly why it is that so many more children have been harmed by “Christians” and even protesters such as themselves in recent weeks, than by transgender people in recorded history.

I can’t promise that this is a “safe” counter-protest. I can’t promise that none of these “Christian” protesters will do you harm. But if you’re respectful, and if you don’t engage in violence, you’re not likely to be arrested. And in speaking the truth, you’re likely to show shoppers the difference between hate and love. And they are likely to see the difference between Christianity and Paganism. And they will see that it’s the hate groups that are far more dangerous than the transgender community.

So, anyone want to go to Target on June 4?

Net Neutrality and breaking Cable’s monopoly on the Internet.

Net neutrality has been a huge topic in the news of late. With Comcast(r), AT&T(r), Google(r) and Netflix(r) as players in any game, with the power of monopolies at stake, with Billions of dollars up for grabs, those with power and money will all be flexing their muscles and spending a great deal of money to defend their piece of the pie, and, to hopefully shave just a bit more of that pie of somebody else’s piece.Image

So now the question is net neutrality. What does “net neutrality” actually mean? Simply put, it means that those who provide the connection to the Internet shouldn’t restrict or hinder the content that an individual user is able to access via that connection. So, if your Cable provider is also your Internet service provider, net neutrality would mean that your cable company shouldn’t restrict access to, for example, Netflix(r).

This brings up an interesting dilemma for cable providers. A growing number of people have become increasingly upset with the content offered on network television – they have discovered that it’s far easier to watch what they want, when they want it, via distribution methods on the Internet, and many have canceled their TV service and opted for an Internet-Only option from their cable provider. The days when Cable TV “also” offered Internet connectivity are coming to an end, and the model is beginning to look more like an Internet provider that “also” offers television.

If we look at things strictly from the point of view of a Cable company that provides Internet services, it sort of makes sense to consider that when users download their television programming from other providers (especially with Comcast’s purchase of NBC), that these companies are actually providing access to the content that is undermining their own business. From a purely business point of view, it’s a model that doesn’t make a great deal of sense! Add to that the fact that Netflix alone accounts for some 33% of ALL Internet traffic here in the United States, and it would seem that Comcast is being required not only to provide access to their competition, but to pay for increases in infrastructure in order to make that even possible. It would seem that this isn’t a very viable business model.

But the problem is that in deciding that a company shouldn’t have to provide access to competing services is a very slippery slope. The problem we have here in the United States is that most homes have but one choice when they are looking for broadband Internet, and that is their cable provider. Years ago, when the Internet was young, the telephone modem was the means of connecting to the Internet – and lots of companies were providing Internet connectivity. AOL, Juno, Compuserve and many bulletin boards had Internet connectivity. If you were a university student, you might have even been able to connect to the Internet via a dial-up connection provided by your school. But in those days, 56Kbps was a very fast connection, and nobody was streaming video, or, for that matter, even much audio. Most computer users of that era remember a time when you could read text as fast as your modem could deliver it.

But in the mid 1980s, dial-up was the best way to get an Internet connection, and there was competition. Then DSL and Cable came along. While at first, these two seemed to compete head-to-head, in the end, it was Cable who was able to provide the best and most consistent service to the most people. DSL has a nasty habit of not working well too far from the central office. And while fiber-optic has the potential bandwidth to easily supplant Cable, the infrastructure costs money, and until somebody comes along who is ready to spend that money and go head to head with the cable companies – they are left with virtual monopolies wherever they happen to be.

So what does that mean for the rest of us who don’t wish to support big business and monopolies? What can those of us who are activists do? Is there a way that we can work together to break the power of monopolies?

If we’re going to break the power of monopolies, it’s important to become somewhat technologically savvy. We can’t fight the monopolies without understanding something of the technology that the corporations are using. Most of us have our hands tied, in part, because we don’t know any better – we presume that “The Internet” is something delivered to us via a cable – for which we each have to pay a fair bit of money. But are there ways that we might work together to avoid being beholden to a single company?

In some areas – in fact, in most urban areas, there is often something that can be done – and which can give groups even more reliable Internet connections. It takes a bit of work and study, but it can be done. In my own home town, we have our local cable company, but in my office, which is only a half-mile from my apartment, I’ve got a fiber connection. I also have access to cable there as well, but the fiber connection is more than fast enough for even multiple video and audio streams. A small collective in my office building is sharing that connection, and we all have high speed Internet for much less than the cost we would be paying via Cable.

If I wanted to share that Internet connection with my home, there are ways to do that as well. There are wi-fi transceivers that will easily make the ½ mile hop from the office to my home.

Ham radio operators have also been doing a great deal of work with the Internet. Because they often are called upon to provide communications when everything else has failed, they actually have digital communication paths that will work even when the Internet disappears. In my own home, where I refuse to pay for cable, even without an Internet connection, I can still receive email via an amateur radio program called Winlink. With this, my computer is connected to a small box called a TNC (Terminal Node Controller), which is connected to a radio. Every now and then, the computer talks to the TNC, and makes a connection to another ham station that is connected to the Internet, and will retrieve email for me. Of course with amateur radio, this can’t be used for anything involving money, but the point is that there are options.

Amateur radio has also been involved in something called “High Speed Multimedia Mesh”, and this could be of real significance to activists. Basically, this involves re-programming some of the older Linksys WRT-54G routers, and allows them to connect to each other automatically. With decent antennas on them, it’s possible to set up a high speed network. This has been used in wilderness races to provide video coverage of the race for distances of a number of miles. For purposes of activism, this could be used to distribute video of an event even if the cell systems and the Internet were shut down.

It seems that activists might do well to study what radio amateurs are actually doing – they use a variety of technology – often inventing their own, to provide communications, wherever it is needed, no matter what might be happening. It is hams who provide communications for the Boston Marathon, and when the bombing occurred, and the cell system was shut down, communications in the area were facilitated as needed, by hams. With Amateur programs like the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service, hams are constantly training and ready for just about any situation that might arise. For we who are activists, and who wish to insure that we can communicate with each other under any circumstance, whether it’s providing access to the Internet for a neighborhood through cooperative use of available services, using a high speed mesh-network to make sure the larger world has access to actual video of an event, hams have already done this, and we can learn from them.

To set up a neighborhood mesh network that can access the Internet, you’ll probably want at least two Internet service providers – if one goes down, the other will likely stay up. You’ll have to learn about things like routing, load-sharing, TCP/IP, how to “flash” your router and a bunch of other things, but you can make it far less expensive for everyone in your group to have Internet access. And until there is real competition for broadband Internet access, this might be one way to work collectively to make the Internet available to more people for less money.

One last note regards the monopoly that cable and satellite companies have over our television viewing. If we wish to break the hold that corporations like Comcast have over us, in this area too, we need to find alternatives. For most people, it would seem that our choices are limited to cable or satellite. But in most areas, a fairly modest antenna will allow you to receive at least one or two – likely more – channels. And often, the other special programming that we want to watch is available on Internet services such as Hulu.

The point of this is that we don’t have to be beholden to large corporate interests we need to do a couple of things – we need to be willing to sacrifice some small measure of convenience, and we need to be willing to learn and adopt technologies that will enable us to become more self-sufficient. We don’t have to submit to the dictates of corporations that we view as unethical; we don’t have to support their practices.

External links:
Wikipedia entry on High Speed Multimedia Mesh (HSMM): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-speed_multimedia_radio

Broadband Hamnet (HSMM) home page: http://www.broadband-hamnet.org/

The American Radio Relay League is the major US organization for hams. If you’d like to consider getting your license, or if you want to learn more about amateur radio, find the ARRL here: http://www.arrl.org

 

Protecting our children

Clinton_VillageUnless we have buried our heads in the sand, we should all realize that our children can be at risk anywhere. As people of faith, we like to presume that those with a similar faith have similar ideals, similar morals, similar integrity – but this isn’t always the case. As was demonstrated in all too stark relief, quite recently, even those of us whom we consider pillars in our community can let us down dramatically.

In 1996, Hillary Rodham Clinton reminded us that It takes a village to raise a child. While some people, such as Bob Dole, who, during his RNC acceptance speech in 1996 criticized Clinton with the comment “… it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child”, the truth is that none of us acts entirely independently. We are all interdependent – even if we should choose to live alone, in a forest, as a hermit. We all affect the environment, we all affect the quality of air and water. And nobody can exist on Earth, apart from the influence of other human beings.

But if we choose to live in any city or town, and if we wish our children to be educated, culturally aware and to contribute in a meaningful fashion when they too become adults, it does take a village to raise a child. As parents, we cannot be child care providers, educators, physicians, opticians, dentists, playmates and each and every person and relationship that our children will need. To grow up healthy and educated, our children need relationships with many people – they need parents and friends and teachers and doctors and child care providers. While, as parents, we might satisfy some of these relationships, we cannot fulfill them all. This means that we will need to be able to trust other individuals to, at times, care for our children.

Recent events though, have shown us that our Pagan community is not exempt from the presence of predators in our midst. Even some people who we have come to trust as leaders are able to let us down. Like any other group of human beings, some among us are good, some are not. And the question that many of us are faced with is this: how do we know who it is that we can trust?

We might consider who it would be that we might trust with anything truly valuable. Who, among our friends might we trust with a great deal of money? There might be many we would trust with a few hundred dollars – but what about a few tens of thousands of dollars? When the stakes increase, we tend to be a bit more cautious, and the list of those we trust tends to diminish.

How much do we value our children? Can we possibly place more value on any amount of currency than we do on our children?

How do we insure that individuals with whom we trust our money are responsible with that money? One way we ensure that people are responsible with things of great value is to avoid entrusting such things to a single individual. If multiple people are responsible for a thing, then it is more likely that it will be treated responsibly.

When it comes to our children, we should avoid any situation that allows a single individual to have sole supervision of those children. It’s up to those of us who are parents to investigate any child care situation. With festival season just beginning to ramp up, many of us who are parents may be bringing our children to various festivals. Many of these festivals do have child care areas. It’s up to us as parents to look at these child care areas closely. It’s up to us to satisfy our selves that our children will be properly cared for. One way to do that is to volunteer at the child care area our selves. I know of few festivals that don’t seek out volunteers – and there is not much of a better way to know something about the child care area than to participate our self.

As a whole, groups of people – a village – are much more trustworthy than single individuals. The village also is able to handle situations that would be much too difficult for a single individual. If there is only one or two adults watching a group of children, and an emergency situation happens, that may well be too much for such a small group of adults to handle. Consider the situation where there are two adults and 10 children – if one child takes ill, that means that one adult will be caring for nine very concerned children – it’s not an optimal situation.

As a rule of thumb, there should be one responsible adult for every five children, plus one further adult. If there are five children or fewer, that means two adults. With six to ten children, there should be three responsible adults. If you find that there are too few adults for the number of children, again, volunteer!

Even better though, recognizing the value of collective action, find other parents who share your concerns – prior to the event, and work together. Recognize the value of a village and work with other parents and the event coordinators to insure there is proper coverage for the child care area. If the particular event doesn’t have child-care, consider organizing something with the help of other parents.

If we’re uncomfortable with the child care system, then there should be no reason to leave our children with them. It might be that we want to attend a particular workshop, but for whatever reason, we’re not 100% comfortable with the child care situation. But we can’t deceive our selves with the notion that “because this is a Pagan event”, the child care will be okay. It’s up to parents to put the safety of our children first – we need to trust our instincts, and it’s far better to miss a particular workshop than to put our children at risk. Whatever the situation, it should be the safety of our children that comes first.

So taking care of our children at festivals is something that we can do, but what do in other situations we do when we have suspicions about a particular individual?

There are some groups that seem to advocate for immediate action against someone the moment an allegation is raised. But it’s important to remember that an allegation is not proof. Certainly some allegations can be more credible than others, and when a serious allegation has been made, we certainly should not simply dismiss it.

If there are any unaddressed allegations of harm to children, we shouldn’t trust those individuals with the care of children. We shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that an allegation implies any misconduct, but we also need to consider the safety of our children. Those of us who are in positions of leadership need to take such allegations seriously. If we are in a leadership position, it’s likely that we are mandated reporters.

In 27 states, members of the clergy are mandated reporters – this means that if we have reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected, that we who are clergy are mandated to report in these states. In 18 states, ANY person who has reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected is required to report.

But there is a difference between a legal requirement to report and a moral duty to report. We may not be a mandated reporter in our locality, but if we suspect some sort of child abuse – do we just let it go? Do we pretend that somebody else will do the reporting if the suspicions are sound?

If any of us has any legitimate reason to suspect the abuse of children, it’s up to us to do something with that suspicion. By “legitimate reason” I don’t mean that we simply think someone looks creepy. But when our children tell us that someone has made improper advances, we need to listen to them. And if it’s clear that those advances are repeated, that is a legitimate reason. If touching is repeated, or obviously not accidental, that is a legitimate reason. If we hear from children that someone has tried to take photographs of them while naked – they are asked to remove their clothes – or asked to perform some sexual act – that is a legitimate reason. And when we hear that, we need to act.

What form should that action take? If we are the leader of the group or event, we call the authorities, and we insure that person stays away from children until the allegations are addressed to our satisfaction. If we’re not the leader of that group or event, we speak to the leadership with our concerns. It might be that we are told “Oh, that individual is just eccentric, but doesn’t mean any harm”. Remember that all too often, this is how a number of people who harm children have been perceived. It’s up to us to take action at that point and tell that person in leadership that there is legitimate reason to take action, and that we will be calling the authorities our self, and then we need to do what is safe for our children and remove them from that situation.

But there are times that we can go too far. We can’t allow our selves to take direct action against individuals based on nothing more than rumor. A rumor isn’t legitimate evidence of guilt. Taking to Facebook or the Internet and destroying a person’s reputation with unproved allegations is not the way to address things. People are sensitive when it comes to our children, and allegations of child abuse don’t easily go away. A public charge of such a crime, whether it is legitimate or not, will likely permanently destroy an individual’s reputation. When we have legitimate suspicions, we deal with them, but we need to be careful not to destroy people based on nothing but rumor.

This is the job of our village – to build a healthy community – to take care of our children, to collectively insure that nobody harms them, and to foster a community that will not tolerate predation of any sort.

If you would like to see a summary of the laws regarding reporting, one can be found here: https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/manda.pdf#Page=2&view=Fit

Rational Activism

This article may make some of you uncomfortable, but I hope that before you jump to conclusions about what it is that I’m saying, that you read for a few paragraphs after you feel uncomfortable. We seem, today, to live in a world that is largely black and white. Whatever sort of800px-PeacePark activism it is that we take part in, it seems that we must be all-in, or we are heretics – not really part of the movement. In doing so, we may often alienate many potential allies – just because we don’t take the time to understand each other.

If we’re going to be effective in our activism, it’s important that we have not only passion for what we’re doing, but a solid understanding of what we’re doing, and why, as well as a willingness to understand – if not accept views that are different from our own. We live in a multifaceted world, where it is rare that a single solution for any problem will not affect some other part of our world or society in a negative fashion. Nor is any truth right for everyone – if it were, there would be only one religion, only one form of government. We have all of our beautiful and marvelous diversity precisely because there are many ways of being and many different answers to the questions and struggles that we face.

Too many of us have developed and held on to an orthodoxy that binds us, that locks us into a particular way of seeing things. In feminism, or in working for racial justice, or in environmental issues, in political activism, or in just about any form of activism, it is often the case that if one does not toe the line, if a person disagrees with the accepted goals, one can be quickly ostracized.

Look at the term GMO; as soon as many of us hear it, it’s met with almost a visceral response. If asked “what do you think of GMOs, many of us would immediately respond that they are evil. We’ll hear arguments that “our bodies don’t know what to do with them”, that “Monsanto is destroying the planet”, and “The biotech industry is dangerous”. In some circles, we hear that “the medical industry doesn’t want a cure for cancer” because “they make more money selling us drugs that will not heal”, and “they spend money to cover up natural cures because they can’t make money off of them”. When it comes to energy, we hear that there are technologies that have been developed, but the government doesn’t want us to know about them. If we disagree with the idea that there are secret agendas, we may face scorn.

In many of the arguments that we hear, there may be a grain of truth, but certainly not always. It’s almost certain that when we hear the conspiracy theories, that things are overblown. Consider this: Physicians and scientists working in the pharmaceutical companies receive the same treatment that we do. I can’t imagine any researcher going to work for a company who is there to make money for somebody else – the pay is often too low, and the chances of huge rewards are miniscule. Most who go into biomedical research are there to seek out cures for illnesses – because that is what they really want to do. If they were “covering up cures for cancer” in order to prevent knowledge of natural cures from leaking out, why is it that they don’t use these “covered up cures” when they are faced with these diseases? Why do they either use the same treatments we receive – or opt for no treatment at all? What researcher, facing cancer, or having a spouse, child or parent who is facing such a horrible disease, would even consider hesitating, when they knew that cannabinoids were an easy, safe and effective treatment for all forms of cancer?

The truth, when it comes to natural health, or any other arena we might get involved in, is that it’s not a black and white issue. Certainly the laws and regulations here in the United States can be problematic. When it’s illegal to say that White Willow bark can be used as an analgesic, something is seriously wrong; it shouldn’t require a company to spend millions of dollars to do a double-blind study to make this claim when the truth of the matter is that White Willow bark was the initial source for aspirin. We do need to work to change such laws, but to make the outrageous claim that the only reason we don’t have actual cures for disease is so that other people can make money is far from the truth.

The other side of the natural health and alternative cures discussion is that there have been countless fraudulent claims by those selling these “natural cures” that have been fraudulent as well. Certainly this isn’t limited to the natural health arena – drug manufacturers have done quite the same. The truth is that ALL of those who have been pandering cures without evidence to support their claims have poisoned the well – sometimes literally. And the default position of the government now is that evidence must exist prior to making claims, rather than attempting to disprove claims after the fact.

Let’s now look again at the term GMO. Basically, the term means any living organism that has been modified via genetic engineering. This can certainly mean Monsanto’s corn, but it also applies to the bacteria that have been genetically modified to produce the insulin that diabetics are taking every day. I don’t believe that any of us would wish to condemn to death or misery those who are currently being treated with insulin that is obtained via GMO bacteria.

It’s important to fight – not the use of technology, but rather the irresponsible use of technology. What’s wrong with many GMO crops is not the simple fact that they are genetically modified crops – there may well be many genetic modifications that are quite worthwhile. The problem with many GMOs right now is that they aren’t designed to be inherently better for humans, but rather to be more tolerant of other dangerous chemicals. Products that are Roundup ™ ready are resistant to glyphosate, which is an herbicide. (Glyphosate is the generic name of Roundup). Use of this chemical permits farmers to use more glyphosate in their fields, and as of 2007, in the United States, some 180 – 200 million pounds of this toxin are used on an annual basis. In February of this year, that same chemical was linked to Celiac disease, gluten intolerance and irritable bowel disorder.

Other GMO crops have been designed to produce their own pesticides; they are actually poisonous to the insects that might eat them. Such organisms are classified as “Plant Incorporated Protectants” (PIP). The Environmental Protection Agency is the responsible agency for registering such products, and claims that extensive testing has been done on registered PIPs, but one needs to wonder how much testing could possibly be done on a product that has only existed for some 20 – 30 years.

The point of this is that when we direct our activism against GMOs, it’s important to be specific; what is it that we actually object to? The reality is that we don’t object to GMOs – but, rather, to products that may be dangerous, which haven’t been fully tested, and which may not be as safe for human consumption as they have been advertised.

Other GMO crops may well be welcome. Crops that are disease or drought resistant could certainly help feed a hungry or a warming world. Such as these are certainly more welcome than seeds that are incapable of producing another generation of fertile seeds – which are designed such that farmers need to purchase new seed each year.

Let’s look at energy. The Keystone Pipeline project is in the news right now, and certainly more tar sands oil on the market is a cause for concern. Is the pipeline necessarily a bad thing?

I’d say that it’s problematic to put something that could fail, and destroy a major aquifer right where it can do the most damage. And certainly our dependence on fossil fuels is a major problem. So, what are the alternatives? Let’s say that the Keystone XL pipeline isn’t built. Will that stop the taking of oil from those sands? No. Will it eliminate the possibility that a major aquifer isn’t contaminated? Well, maybe one of them, but that oil will get out – by trains, by trucks, or by other pipelines. I’m certainly not saying that we need to build the Keystone XL pipeline. But what I am saying is that if we don’t, we need to accept the responsibility for whatever means are used to get the oil from where it is to where it’s going. Will it mean more ships in dangerous waters? Will it mean another train derailing and destroying another small town – or a larger part of a larger city?

I think that most people who are reading this are likely against fracking – and with good reason. Many wells have been destroyed, a number of earthquakes have been found to be the result of fracking. But once again, the problem isn’t the technology, but the irresponsible use of a technology. Corporations are permitted to keep secret the chemicals they are using, and releasing into the environment. They are permitted to use this technology, often in environmentally sensitive areas. For the sake of profits, they are able to cut corners, even when the technology, albeit more expensive, might exist to prevent some of the problems we have already seen.

In the LGBT community, right now, there are many who are filled with vitriol over Jared Leto’s portrayal of the character Rayon in the film The Dallas Buyer’s club. The argument is that it’s an insult that a non-transgender woman shouldn’t have played that part. Certainly, from one point of view, Leto’s portrayal of Rayon was an insult to trans women. There have been transgender actors and actresses at least since 1981 when Caroline Cossey (aka Tula) played one of the Bond girls in For Your Eyes Only. Could a transgender woman have done a job equal to Jared Leto in The Dallas Buyer’s Club? Almsot certainly! The question though, from a marketing perspective, is whether such a choice would have made as much economic sense. Would the film have been as successful if people had known that they were watching an actual transgender woman on the screen playing that part. Unfortunately, we won’t know – at least not for this film. But it is important to keep fighting.

On the other hand though, some of the outrage is decidedly NOT good for the transgender community. The fighting, the outrage, the attacks against Leto really make the transgender community look bad. When the arguments are vitriolic, and filled with hatred and invective, transgender people are seen as exactly what they are dishing out – angry, hateful and not very nice to be around.

Sometimes the work we do as activists can be very reactionary, and very divisive, and we might well alienate potential allies. When we become so dogmatic in our efforts that we are unable to have a rational discussion with someone who sees things 75% our way, we have sacrificed the good on the altar of the perfect.

We live in a world with increasing energy demands. There are more and more people living on Earth each and every day, and they will all need to eat. Abortion will continue whether it remains legal or not. We will still need to heat our homes. All electric cars are still not as convenient as gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles, and won’t be for some years to come. So it’s up to us to advocate for solutions that will work. No matter how we see things, no matter what the perfect solution might be, the perfect solution is useless if nobody will adopt it.

There is no single answer to every problem that those of us who count ourselves activists are involved in. There is no one answer that is right for everyone – with pretty much every problem that we face, someone will be injured in its solution. But the point is that we who consider ourselves activists, on any level, need to recognize that there ARE multiple viewpoints for everything, and that simple solutions usually only exist in textbooks.