Wednesday, April 30, 2008

When Religion Makes the Rules American Style

Most literate and/or conscious people have heard of Madeline Kara Neumann, the 11-year-old whose parents killed her by withholding life-saving medical care, depending, instead, on the (non-existant)power of prayer to heal her end-stage diabetes.

Now, Madeline's parents have been charged with second degree reckless homocide. And rightly, I say.

In one way, at least, this, just like the killings of women I wrote about in this post, is also an honor killing. Madeline's parents were not members of any church, but her parents had their honor all tied up with their faith that prayer would heal their daughter of this very preventable and manageable disease. On the Friday before Madeline's death, as she sank further and further into the illness, her mother said, "We stayed by her side nonstop and we prayed." On the evening prior to Madeline's death, after she had already fallen off the toilet in her diabetes-caused lethargy, her parents sent out a call for help. Not to 911. But to AmericasLastDays, an online ministry run by David Eells, where they sent an e-mail saying, "Help our daughter needs emergency prayer!!!!"

I call this an honor-killing because, like the parents who would stone their daughters to death to prevent them from going against misogynistic, uterus-controlling, patriarchical religious laws, these parents killed their daughter to prevent her from going against their stone-age, anti-science, religious laws. Madeline's father even goes so far as to say that "given the same set of circumstances with another child, he would not waiver in his faith and confidence in the healing power of prayer." These parents had placed all their honor in the hands of a non-existent super-power, to whom they called for help as their daughter lay dying, instead of availing themselves of what ANYONE IN THE U.S. knows is the best help for illness and disease, MODERN FUCKING MEDICINE. Had they caved and taken Madeline to the hospital, their honor would have been besmirched and their dedication to their invisible friend would have been shown to be hollow. They couldn't have that!

Honor is tied to pride. Anyone who doubts this should (hopefully having already read it once) reread the parts of Homer's The Iliad concerning Achilles. The pride of the Neumann family, their arrogance in denying all evidence to the contrary and insisting on prayer over medicine, their choice of honor over their daughter's life, and now, their (or his, at least) insistence that they would do it AGAIN, have shown that they have no business being parents. I hope they get long jail sentences.

Another sad thing about this is that, having been raised by these people, Madeline herself may have chosen prayer over medicine as well, had she been given the choice. I'll bet she WASN'T given the choice, but in a family as prideful, arrogant, and honor-bound to follow their dangerous and deadly non-entity, I'll bet it didn't even occur to her, in her illness, that there might be another way, a way that would let her live. Poor child. I grieve for her.

UPDATE: Go to Pharyngula for more information - apparently, the great State of Wisconsin has a law on its books that allows parents to kill their children for religious reasons. I'm now hoping that this case will overthrow that law and set a new precedent. Children have no choice!!! If a parent wants to kill him or herself, then FINE. But let's give the children the benefit of the doubt and assume they would prefer to live until they can make the choice themselves.

When Religion Makes the Rules

I have no words to describe how I feel about this article.The gist is that a 17 year old Iraqi girl, Rand Abdel-Qader met a 22 year old British soldier while working as a volunteer at a Basra aid station. When her father was told of the relationship (it is not clear if they were doing anything more than seeing and talking with each other in the course of their duties), he "stamped upon, suffocated and stabbed" her in front of her mother and with the help of her brothers.

Her father was released from police custody without being charged within two hours because:
Not much can be done when we have an honour killing case," said Sergeant Ali Jabbar of Basra police. "You are in a Muslim society and women should live under religious laws. The father has very good contacts inside the Basra government and it wasn't hard for him to be released and what he did to be forgotten. (bolding is mine)

The only good to come out of this is that her mother has since divorced her father, though she is currently hiding from his family, who have threatened her.

The article notes that there were 47 (FORTY FUCKING SEVEN) "honour" killings, JUST IN THAT CITY last year.

Noted that there are many equally or even more heinous instances of violence toward women that have been publicized lately. The most talked about recently is the public stoning to death of Du'a Khalil Aswad in Bashika, a town near Mosul in Iraq. Her crime was to love a Sunni Muslim young man when her family are members of a minority Kurdish religion. A video of the stoning was made by some onlooker and posted on the internet. I will not provide a link to that. In this case, Kurdish leaders have legislated against "honour" killings, but security and police forces neither tried to stop this nor investigated it afterwards, which is the standard reaction in these cases.

I am outraged and horrified and have no idea what should be done (besides the obvious - that the Iraqi people themselves need to wake the fuck up and establish some sort of justice system that works for ALL Iraqis.) What the fuck is wrong with some of these people? How could anyone do things like this to their own children? Despicable!

There's a huge debate going on in the comments section of PZ's post about this article at Pharyngula. I declare myself on the side of those who say that until so-called "moderate" Muslims and their religious leaders openly and loudly declare themselves against "honor" killings, and against stoning adulterers and apostates, they are part of the problem.

National Day of Reason - Donate Your Organs!

Tomorrow, May 1, 2008, is the 5th annual National Day of Reason. At the website, there are listings of local events going on around the US. Sadly, I notice that there are few events. However, many secular groups are unofficially encouraging such activities as giving blood or plasma on this day. Even if you do this individually, not as a group, giving blood is always a great thing to do. I have been unable to give blood the last three times I've gone for my appointments due to the fact that my heart rate is over 100 each time! I don't know if I've developed a "freak-out" about it or what, since I never had that problem before. So, I'm pushing another option:


If you are not already an organ donor, May 1 would be a good day to fill out that paperwork and start informing your loved ones that you would like to be one. Organ donation is something that can potentially help anyone. Ironically, since mandatory seatbelt laws were passed in the US, and motorcycle helmet laws passed in some states, there has been a dearth of donors (not as many folks flying through windshields, destroying brains, but leaving organs intact)*, which makes individual action on this issue even more urgent. For information about donation, visit

*source here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Feminist Alert!

As a self-identifying feminist, I have been following the recent uproar all over the web, but haven't made any comment, mostly because I don't feel like I'm really knowledgeable enough as a newbie blogger,and really as a newbie feminist in that I identified as one without knowing what it was all about, to comment on issues of such importance. The bottom line is that many women (mostly women of color) are being marginalized and told to shut up by the mainstream-type (mostly white) feminist community. As a middle-class white woman, I had identified with feminism more along the lines of "make your own damned sandwich" or "I don't have to wear makeup" or "violence against women must stop" which was fine in my small world, but WAY simplistic. The internet and all the wonderful feminist bloggers of all persuasions have opened my eyes. I am going to have to start working to educate myself, beginning with every single blog listed on this post from Ico, who, sadly, has no blog, more sadly, has no intention of blogging, yet put into words what I, in my tiny little world, needed to learn and become aware of if I want to be part of the larger community of womanists.

I'm nobody, and nobody reads this blog, but if you accidentally come across it, come learn with me, starting with the blogs listed in the post above.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Memories of Ignorant Youth, Part III


Reading the Skepchick blog this morning, I ran across this post by writerdd. It reminded me of a time, way back when, I think I was in middle school (5 - 8 grades at my school), but don't remember which specific grade. I had become enamored of vampires. I think it happened after the Frank Langella movie. Yes, he used to be hot, back in the 70's.

At any rate, I was so enamored that for several months, I would leave my window open, just a crack, just enough for HIM to get in. I would also try to fall asleep on my back with my hair spread over my pillow in a (I thought) sultry way, just like Kate Nelligan's hair in the movie.

What a dork.

Still, having seen the preview clip for this new vampire show, I may just have to start leaving my window open, just a crack...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Memories of Ignorant Youth, Part II

In high school, a couple of friends and I went out on weekends. Some of the things we did were extraordinarily stupid, and I dread the day my kids start doing them, as I know they will. Mostly we only endangered ourselves, and I am happy today that nobody ever got hurt.

One thing we did, though, four times (I remember, because I still beat myself up about it today), was to eat at restaurants and sneak out without paying. We did this twice at Denny's and twice at some other 24 hour restaurant that is no longer extant - maybe Girlie's Pancake House, but I'm not sure.

This crime is the worst I have ever committed and I regret it to this day. I'm sure the skinny and cancerous beehived waitresses at each of these restaurants have died by now, but I wish I could go back in time and do right by them, as I'm sure they had to pay for our stupid childish antics.