Israel’s New Racism: The Persecution of African Migrants

About 60,000 Africans have migrated to Israel since 2006, fleeing unrest in their home countries. On arrival in the ostensibly democratic country, the migrants have faced intense persecution and have been branded as “infiltrators” by right-wing politicians and activists.

It’s quite shocking to see Jewish people demonstrate the same fear and hatred that they experienced from the Nazis during the Holocaust. Has it been so long since the second World War that young Israelis cannot remember how dangerous their belief systems can be?

You know during the Sochi Olympics I kept thinking how stupid my idea of boycotting the Games was in light of the human rights atrocities committed in almost every single country in the world.

So I reneged my decision. I didn’t seem to have this much passion when China hosted the Olympics, or when America did also, and these are nations that have and continue to commit egregious human rights offences, even on their own people.

I had arguments with a few gay friends who said that I was a traitor for not shunning the Sochi Olympics. But I couldn’t see the merits of their arguments.

I asked one gentleman, “Well, where is that last place you travelled?”

“Jamaica,” he replied.

“Do you know that the Jamaican president issued a statement permitting families to kill their gay relatives?”

Silence.

“So by visiting Jamaica, you indirectly contributed to homophobia.”

Silence.

Yep. Hate is hate, no matter where it is. I don’t quite understand when people make a stand against one country, because it happens to be trending in the news currently, and not against a country offering a good holiday package. We’re all hypocrites to some degree.

It just stands to reason that if you’re going to boycott the Sochi Olympics because of their anti-gay laws then perhaps you should boycott travelling to countries with similar laws. No?

In the end, despite my initial claims not to watch the Russian Olympics, I chose to support the athletes, while simultaneously recognizing Putin’s devastating impact on not just gays, but all minorities within the nation he governs.

Israel is becoming an increasingly popular gay holiday destination, but the same individuals who encouraged their peers to boycott Sochi, have no problem taking a trip to the Holy Land, because, hey, their beaches are full of hot guys.

Yep. Prejudice is prejudice and if we’re going to act in an effort to stop it, we should aim for consistency.

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The God Delusion

It probably comes to no one’s surprise that I am not a religious person. I am agnostic, which means that I don’t know, nor do I pretend to know how the world came to be and who, if anyone, is in control of it.

I accept a secular view of the world, and do not believe in a God, but rather the important role science plays in answering some of the most pressing questions about our planet and the sentient life that populates it.

Growing up gay and Catholic, who has studied the Bible, admittedly a limited study, I cannot subscribe to any faith that ignorantly teaches that homosexuals are sub-level, deviant human beings in need of correction.

I know first hand how religion can be used as a weapon to shame and control people into obedience, shunning question or thought and promising retribution for apostasy.

I also cannot adhere to any faith that resorts to violence in an effort to prove that they are the one “true” religion for the purpose of achieving moral dominance. To me that is the antithesis of morality.

In fact, there are clear examples of amorality within the Old Testament, anecdotes that have been taken as fact by those with an exclusionary agenda that conscribes them into a literal definition of fallible scriptures for the purpose of demonstrating superiority.

It is their own lack of reason and logic that frustrates religious leaders. They simply have no concrete arguments against those who question, study and based on its apparent moral depravity, reject holy scriptures.

Religion according to some, especially if you look to those in the United States as an example, has been used to subjugate individuals into archetypal roles that have been detrimental to the advancement of our species. For example, labeling women as either saints or whores to exclude them from being taken seriously.

The end of poverty is simple: Educate women and break the shackles of their religious oppression, but religion says “NO!” Religious patriarchy continues to seminate the belief that the vagina is to be feared, rooted in men’s own personal shame about their failure to control their most basic impulses. Namely, their erect penises.

I have no problem that when I die there is a real possibility that I will cease to exist, that there will be no heaven, no purgatory, no hell. I’m okay with that, it does not frighten me, or compel me to believe in a faith to soothe my worries or fears.

So it comes as no surprise that I enjoy Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late, Christopher Hitchens. It is my regret that I never had the chance to have sex with Hitchens, whom I find to be the sexiest man who has ever lived. Oh well, maybe in my next life. Ha!

Being a gay man, who has been repressed for years by religious patriarchy, I’ve earned my right to distrust religion. We’re continuing to be killed the world over, laws enacted to restrict our worth and livelihood, in the name of God.

That is not God. He’s been hijacked by hate.

#FreeArturo the polar bear trapped in deplorable conditions in a Mendoza Zoo — shame on Argentina!

A polar bear trapped in deplorable conditions at a zoo in Mendoza, Argentina is slowly going insane. Efforts were under way to move the suffering animal to the Assiniboine Park Conservancy in Winnipeg, but in typical Argentine fashion authorities there failed to produce the proper medical records required by Canadian regulations.

To bring an animal into Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency requires specific records dating back at least three years and the Argentines can’t provide them, therefore no permit.

According to the Winnipeg Sun:

“There are very strict regulations that must be met to bring an animal into Canada,” said Don Peterkin, chief operations officer with the Assiniboine Park Conservancy. “These regulations are in place to ensure the health and welfare of animals and animal-related industries so without the proper health records in place it’s simply not possible to obtain the permits required.”

The Assiniboine Park Conservancy has been in contact with the Mendoza Zoo in the South American country for weeks, trying to see if a transfer to Canada would help the 28-year-old bear, who is languishing in hot weather.

Assiniboine Park representatives will participate in a Skype meeting on Friday to help assess the bear’s health, and have offered to send a member of their veterinary team in the near future to evaluate his environment and make possible recommendations for improvements.

The Mendoza Zoo has been under heavy scrutiny since 2013 after reports surfaced about the inhumane conditions of the polar bear’s enclosure. Video of the bear shows him in a shallow, tepid pool of water, sweltering in 35 C temperatures, staring at a picture of snow.

“Arturo is in a small cage, with no space to walk, he has no stimulation — and the weather is awful for a polar bear,” said María Fernanda Arentsen, a professor at Université de Saint-Boniface, who spearheaded the months-long campaign to bring Arturo to Winnipeg.

How the Mendoza zoo acquired Arturo is suspect in a country where this type of treatment towards animals is typical. I personally visited Mendoza in February 2012 and can attest that it is extremely dry, and hot, definitely not a place for an arctic animal like a polar bear.

Without medical records I wonder how many times Arturo has been moved throughout his life. All in the name of profit for animal abusers. He is clearly not getting the medical attention that he desperately needs and he is slowly going insane, as you can see in the video that I posted above.

Argentina’s attitudes about animals infuriates me. When I lived there, Argentines frequently explained what a ‘warm people’ they were, but I realized that what they meant was that they liked to have a lot of sex with as many people as possible.

Animals are often neglected, abused and ill-cared for. Definitely not the characteristics of a warm, friendly, enlightened people.

I’ve already written letters to the Minister of Agriculture of Manitoba, the Governor of Mendoza, the conservation park in Winnipeg and the zoo in Mendoza. No one has replied to my messages.

What we can do

  • On Saturday, February 22 there will be a “TweetStorm”on Twitter. Simply write as many tweets as you can with the hashstag #FreeArturo and #MendozaZoo and let’s help save Arturo’s life before it’s too late.
  • Please sign the petition at Change.org now if you can.

Thanks for all your help!

Watch Anti-Gay, Pro-Putin Americans protest in Sochi, Russia

If you’re a pro-gay protester in Russia you’re arrested. If you’re anti-gay protester in Russia you’re rewarded! Watch as these Americans praise the Putin regime’s discrimination of gay people.

Betty Bowers explains traditional marriage, and it’s hilarious

Apparently, I was “raised” Catholic. My brother once remarked, “I fear only two people in life, my father, and God.” To which my mother rejoiced, smiling from ear to ear in pride at her little offspring. Of course, I provided the dissenting voice, “Why do you have to fear anyone?”

It’s important to note that my brother has never read the Bible critically, or, well, even read the Bible at all. But that’s how I feel about most religious people are, they like to play the moralist, dictating what people should do, and how they should behave in their private life.

Now I love my brother dearly, but we all have these types of people within our families. You know, the ones who don’t read. The ones that talk in sound bites that they hear from conservative, right-wing media outlets, or even friends who are grossly misinformed about, I don’t know, kindness. One thing is always clear in these people’s minds: You should live your life in a manner that makes them comfortable.

Such is the case with marriage. I listen to what’s going on in America with a mixture of horror and amusement as pundits sound off on the definition of marriage. The sanctity of marriage they scream! Anyone who is against equality is consistently on the losing side of history. It’s so short-sighted of them not to realize this. But I guess that’s the point.

It wasn’t too long ago in America when a black man would be arrested for marrying a white woman. We’ve evolved to learn that this was archaic and stupid. But there are so many people who want to stop gay people from marrying, because it goes against their religious beliefs.

What’s wrong with America being a Christian nation? Well, for starters, not everyone is Christian, and they don’t want to be. Some people don’t prescribe to a particular faith, so why should they be forced to? There’s so much wrong with the argument against marriage equality that I sometimes want to holler from the top of my lungs: “If you’re against gay marriage, than don’t marry a gay person.” It doesn’t affect anyone’s life except the two people entering the contract.

And of course, there is the child argument. THINK OF THE CHILDREN THEY SAY. And of course, there are those who believe that by giving gay people rights, we are legalizing bestiality and pedophilia. Again, do I really have to go into what’s wrong with irrational logic? No.

Wouldn’t it be easier if we shamed stupid people like this? I guess not. Most people who hold bigotted views are entirely proud of their ignorance, and can’t be shamed. When it comes to marriage equality they think the alternative is to teach their children to hate gay people. THINK OF THE CHILDREN! Oh wait, don’t hate the sinner, just hate the sin. Not sure why they’re thinking about gay sex so much because I don’t sit around thinking about heterosexual sex all that often. I mean look at porn, is it really natural for men to degrade women by ejaculating on their faces? Uh, no. Sorry to be crass, but it happens all too frequently.

Anyway, I love this video, and I think you will too. Marriage equality has been legal in Canada for over 10 years, hell hasn’t frozen over, gay people aren’t molesting kids, or marrying their dogs and the children are just fine. In fact, they’re better than fine, because they’ve learned about acceptance, and the importance of love.

Young and gay in Putin’s Russia

Like a lot of people I look forward to the Olympics. Four years ago Vancouver was host to the world. We were given the opportunity to demonstrate how brilliantly embracing this country is for people from all walks of life.

Unfortunately this year things will be different. The Olympics are to be held in an increasingly hostile, anti-gay country: Sochi, Russia.

To protest, I am boycotting all television coverage of the two-week event. This five-part series produced by Vice will demonstrate why I’ve made this decision.

It’s my hope that others will follow.

I never stop

I’m a big fan of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynee. Not only because she’s the first openly gay woman to hold the position, but because she really cares about Toronto, in a country that hates its largest city.

She released a new promotional video today, because you know, elections are around the corner. Anyway, I thought I would share it with you, my readers.

MG0911003A_.indd

Religion isn’t an agent of oppression, people are

MG0911003A_.indd

Those of you outside of Canada are probably unfamiliar with the Quebec Charter of Values. It’s a controversial new law introduced by Premier Pauline Marois that would ban public sector workers from wearing any religious symbols or dress.

The caveat to all of this is though muslim women would be prohibited from wearing their veils, christians are permitted to wear their crucifixes. Amnesty International, and other bodies have criticized the ban, stating that it would violate the rights of Canadians to religious freedom.

Quebec is often a thorn in the rest of Canada’s side, constantly demanding more attention, and claiming that its culture is under attack from immigrants, and Anglophones. The Parti Québécois’ chief mandate is to protect Quebec’s distinct culture and French language, a fight the political party has been having with the Federal government for decades.

I’ve stated before that each of the ten provinces in Canada, and its three northern territories are distinct cultures. Anyone who has travelled across this great country will clearly see how different we are from one another, and how our diversity, rich in history, makes us so similar.

So it constantly strikes me as odd that Quebec thinks that it is MORE culturally distinct, in part due to the French language. I’m not making light of this difference, I’m simply suggesting that rural Quebecers venture outside of their province to notice how they’re not as dissimilar as they think.

I say rural because the charter’s chief supporters are from farming communities, but this is not anything shocking. Most rural communities in Canada are often ignorant to diversity because they live outside of urban centres where diversity thrives. Again, I say most, not ALL, there are individuals in farming communities who hold progressive values.

The rest of Canada is embarrassed that this a debate in Quebec. We are a nation of immigrants that boasts proudly about its multiculturalism. When a person enters into Canada for the first time we assure them that our society is a mosaic, and they are free to retain their culture, but encourage them to adopt Canadian values, and respect that everyone is equal.

Anyone who chooses to make Canada home does so with the understanding that we are a multicultural society; they will have to coexist with people from nations whom they have experienced conflict with before.

That is not to say that racism, sexism and homophobia does not exist in Canada, because they do. Much of it exists because of immigration, people who come to this country and hold steady to the beliefs of their mother country.

Growing up in Brampton, Ontario I know how religion can affect a large number of people. I went to Catholic school up until the age of 19. Brampton is a very multicultural city, built by Jamaican, Italian, Portuguese, Indian, Pakistani immigrants. I am the son of an immigrant.

In high school these sects did not mix. One only had to visit the cafeteria at lunch to witness the racial, cultural and religious divides. Not everyone who went to my high school was Catholic, in fact there were many students of different religions including Hindus, Sikhs, muslims and so on.

I could never understand how little influence our religious teachings had on my classmates. This hostility was certainly not in accordance with our curriculum, which focused on world religions. I wasn’t raised to believe that the Catholic faith was the one and only true faith. Tolerance of other people’s spiritual beliefs is what I learned from my lessons at school.

The inter-faith tensions in high school provided me a first glimpse into reality: ignorance, bigotry, fear, uncertainty and distrust in other cultures, places, religions, colours, sexualities, cannot be easily undone through education. It doesn’t matter how much a person knows, if they’re unwilling to think for themselves, there’s no helping them. Just look at anti-apartheid South Africa as evidence of this.

Based on all that I’ve laid out, it’s obvious where I stand on the Quebec Charter of Values. Yesterday there was a demonstration in Montreal for people who support the ban. A young muslim woman in a veil walked by the demonstrators, oblivious to what was happening. The supporters began to yell at her, demanding that she remove her veil and if she didn’t, to go back to the country from where she came. Quebec values indeed.

The majority of the supporters at the demonstration were white, which confirms my suspicions that this has more to do with racism, and religious intolerance of brown people, than anything else.

As a Canadian I believe in religious freedom, and the freedom of expression. A woman wearing a veil may or may not be facing oppression at home. She may not be forced to wear the veil by her husband, it may be her choice. Which is what much of the Charter and those who support it don’t understand. The freedom to choose to express yourself however you please. It’s really none of my business.

Believe me, I’m a secularist, but I don’t want to force anyone to practice my beliefs, just as I don’t want their beliefs to be forced on me. We need to be empathetic to where individuals are coming from, and their personal histories, which are as diverse as their ethnicity, and their religion.

I’ve taken to Twitter to complain about the Charter, because I question whether it is fair, or racist for that matter. For the most part people have ignored me, but there was one woman from “Truth”, USA who took me to task for my opposition on the ban of religious clothing.

However, her arguments were not constructed in a manner that I would consider healthy. The basis of her argument was derived from the anger that she felt from a previous sexual assault. She has every right to her anger, but I felt that she was channeling it in a way that was destructive. She accused me of “dehumanizing” her, of being a “jihadist” and made the argument that all muslims are women-hating rapists and that all veils, no matter their type, are a symbol of oppression.

I tried to rationally explain to her that her generalizations do not apply to the people whom I know. I lived with a muslim in university, and he was definitely not a racist, or a misogynist, in fact, he was a tolerant, caring and loving person with a tremendous respect for life.

I have worked with many muslim women who choose to wear their veils, and are not coerced by their husbands to do so. I have also worked with many muslim women who do not wear veils, but admit that their daughters do.

In addition, I expressed to her that the christians in her own country have staunchly, and viciously rescinded the rights of gay people for years, and that perhaps she should tackle the internal problems in America before “liberating” muslim women. Gay people need liberation from fundamental christians who are constantly dehumanizing them, and their relationships.

Well that just got her riled up even more. She began calling me a “leftard” which made me laugh, and then proceeded to send me photographs of muslim children in Africa chained to fences, as well as this video:

She also sent me more photos that made me laugh out loud, not because they were not serious in nature, but because of the absurd leaps in her argument.

After she accused me of being a jihadist who thought cultural diversity included wearing swastikas and yellow stars I had to end our correspondence.

I wrote, “Whoa. U’ve kind of lost the plot. Ppl stay angry out of habit. Enjoy your nihilist view of the world, it’s clearly working well.” I then added, “I can’t engage with you any longer, your world is black and white and we can’t have a conversation about it.”

These type of debates are enlightening on many levels. I have often found while debating Americans about world issues that they routinely slip into making inflammatory, rhetorical comments, and are not shy about yelling, hollering, and insulting the people whom they are debating.

I guess if you’re raised on FOX, MSNBC, CNN and whatever other God awful news outlet for your source of information, it’s possible that if the news is yelled to you everyday, you’re going to emulate the same behaviour. There was a time when the news was simply reported to us, but now it’s saturated in personal opinions from reporters and journalists who have become more interested in being celebrities than professionals.

But being the loudest doesn’t make anyone right. Neither does making irrational, illogical connections in an attempt to intimidate those who disagree with us into silence.

I couldn’t believe that this woman believed that her behaviour was appropriate, and lumped all muslim people into one category: a jihadist. There was no middle ground, no ability to see from someone else’s perspective, no consideration of any argument opposite of hers, it was just a black and white depiction of the world where all religions are bad, but none as terrible as Islam.

I am not religious, in fact I consider myself an atheist, but I would never expect anyone to be an atheist because I am one. I believe it is important to defend everyone’s right to choice, the freedom to choose to create a life that is right for you.

Clearly I do not advocate hate, or bigotry of any kind, but to focus on one religion like Islam, and say that it is the worst religion in the world, and ignore the fact that christians have been responsible for more deaths in the history of civilization, is pure lunacy, not to mention wilfully ignorant.

Again, if the woman who I was debating with on Twitter wants an example of how religion corrupts freedom, she only has to look to her own country to see how actively christianity has politically, and economically restricted the rights of gay people.

There is nothing more hostile than the defence of marriage act, the ban on same sex-marriage in countless states, the ban on allowing gay people to adopt or foster children, the refusal to provide social security to individuals whose same-sex partners have died, and the list goes on and on.

The excuse that christians, and other religious organizations provide for their anti-gay views is that they are defending the definition of marriage, and the nuclear family. This is the same argument that they used in the 1960s when they attempted to make interracial marriage illegal. It is wrong, it is hateful and those who support such measures will always be on the losing side of history. It’s also flawed, because all one American has to do is look at the 15 other countries around the world that have embraced marriage equality to know that it does not lead to the end of a nation’s morality. Quite the opposite.

There is too much rage in America at the moment. So much willful intolerance makes it impossible to take their credibility as an agent for good seriously. It is a divisive, polarizing place to live where over 30 million people (the population of Canada) are without health care, and countless others without basic civil rights. And yet they attempt to convince the rest of the world that all Americans are born equal. Unless of course you’re gay, or muslim, or not a white older man with deep pockets.

America has shown me how lucky I am to be Canadian which is why I oppose Quebec’s Charter of Values so much. Based on everything I have written about regarding the pursuit by christian Americans to restrict the rights of gay people, it does not mean that I believe all christian people are bad, or have the same warped, regressive views. No, of course not. Just as not all muslims are 9/11 apologists who want to blow up all of America. How retrograde and narrow-minded is it of someone to believe in such a thing? This generalizing of groups of people is maddening. Individuals who actively attempt to rescind rights are surprisingly in the minority, but they’re very good at organizing themselves and making lots of noise, giving the illusion that they’re the majority.

I can’t stomach that a province in Canada is going to vote on a charter that has nothing to do with values, and everything to do with exclusion and fear. The fear that immigrants are threatening their “distinct” culture in a nation that thrives on immigration. It all seems so senseless.

But as a friend of mine said, “If you think about it, it only makes sense that a society built on “protecting” their culture will reject all others. Scary.”

Indeed. We’ll see how this all plays out.

Bhutto

To no one’s surprise former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf was indicted in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto today. Bhutto was a pro-democratic advocate who was Pakistan’s prime minister on two separate occasions.

Pakistan is one of the most corrupt and dangerous countries on the planet. Bhutto was determined to put her homeland on the right path. Here is a thrilling documentary on her life that I am embedding for your viewing pleasure.

She lived a remarkable life. I hope that there will be justice for her murder.

Huma Abedin

Cut Huma Abedin some slack

Huma Abedin

I recently read a Freshly Pressed article daringly titled It’s Okay to Stay about Huma Abedin’s choice to remain married to embattled politician Anthony Weiner.

I’m still confused why sending naked pictures of himself to multiple women is newsworthy. It goes to show yet again how obsessed, and ashamed Americans are with the idea of sex.

Personally, I don’t much care about Anthony Weiner’s private life. It does not impact his job performance, and I don’t think that it’s anyone’s business what he does when he’s off the clock.

In Canada there is an agreement between politicians and the media that they respect each other’s right to have private lives, free from public scrutiny.

Clearly in America the reality is much different. It’s pretty much expected that senators, governors, and Presidents have a spouse, and children. The appearance of a happy nuclear family gets people elected, and the idea that politicians may be involved in complicated relationships, like the rest of the population is intolerable.

When the fantasy bursts, it exposes a lot about our society, and our inability to accept that life is full of complexities and nuances. The first thing we call for, is blood. Good vs. Evil.

But what if Huma Abedin and her husband have an agreement. What if long ago, like Bill and Hillary Clinton, they chose to define their relationship in a way that made sense to them. What business is that of ours? Two consensual adults are free to make these decisions, and the public should not involve themselves with their marriage.

The media is very good at feeding the public what they want to hear. Anthony Weiner is labeled a bad guy, but he’s not that at all.

Men, gay and straight, do this sort of thing all the time. Rarely when I’m out with my girlfriends does the subject not turn to their horrible online dating experiences. To many of you it may be surprising that men routinely and consistently send pictures of their genitals to potential dates. Women also engage in this type of activity. Whether you agree with it or not, functioning members of our society are able to separate their sexual needs, from their occupation.

Grindr, Manhunt and DudesNude are gay hookup sites that are saturated with “dick pics”. In fact, the best way to make a gay man nervous is to search his mobile phone.

Granted, many find it shocking that Weiner is married, but again I will remind you, that he and his wife have possibly had an agreement for years. And if they haven’t, and he has been unfaithful, I still don’t see how it’s anyone’s business but theirs.

I know it’s shocking to those who believe that the world is full of rainbows where everyone behaves perfectly and they don’t indulge their sexual fantasies, but the individuals who think this way, should worry about their own lives, and not force their ideals on to those who do not meet their standards. I doubt if they meet their own standards.

Then there are those who say that Huma Abedin is a bad feminist. Well from what I know about feminism it’s primarily about a woman’s right to choose to live her life however she wants to. So it makes sense to me that she wouldn’t bow to pressure to leave her marriage, especially if she still loves her husband, and believes in their union.

To me, Abedin is demonstrating what feminism is all about. She’s making her own decisions, based on what’s right for her, and not on how the public believes she should behave.

This is a hard sell for our society’s odd obsession with fidelity. And while I’m at it let me remind everyone that it’s just sex. The hysteria surrounding what people choose to do in their own bedroom, is embarrassing, because what it does is expose our own insecurities and fears. There’s nothing wrong with sex, and there is nothing shameful about our bodies, and all the shapes and sizes they come in.

The United States has to move past these sex scandals and focus on matters that are more pressing. Like, the fact that their country is getting poorer and poorer each day. Or that citizens don’t have equal rights. Or that millions are without health insurance. Or that the polarization of their political system makes it so that nothing ever gets done. Or the fact that the minimum wage is so low that millions of Americans, in the richest country on the planet, are living in abject poverty.

But Anthony Weiner is another distraction, a reason for moral crusaders to point fingers, make judgments and continue to promote the fallacy that the world is simple, coloured in black and white.

The evidence proves otherwise.