The problem with America is that unlike almost every other type of democracy in the developed world we decided two teams were all we needed. Sit down, Libertarians, Green Party members and registered Independents, because when the chips are down, no matter what you consider yourself to be, much of politics is what others consider you to be. Trust me, to the majority of left-leaning people in the world, Libertarian means Republican, and I'm sure the reverse is true from the other side.
Is it fair? No, of course it isn't, but it is the way things are. It's a real shame, too, because no person divides up equally on all issues. The result of our Us vs. Them approach to the world means that no matter how closely you feel about something, you are eventually going to be sitting in the same bus as raving loons simply because that's how the kickball teams get picked. People like...
Safety Advisers Sound Like Victim Blamers: There are some very good pieces of advice if you want to make yourself safer from assault or robbery when out and about. Things like, "Be aware of your surroundings", "Stay in well-lit areas with people you know", and "Keep your eyes off your bloody phone when you're walking down the street at night, you idiot!" If you combine a basic set of safety knowledge like this with self-defense training, mace, pepper spray, or other deterrents that you feel comfortable with then you can vastly improve your chances of avoiding or surviving an encounter with someone that wants to hurt you.
Oh, bonus tip, almost nothing you have in your pockets is worth getting shot or shooting someone else over.
The problem with handing out this extremely helpful advice is that misogynistic rape-apologists use these same bullet points and tack on super-helpful additions like "don't wear revealing clothing that offers easy access", "keep your hair short so it can't be grabbed", and "don't wear high heels so you can get away". The purpose of the additions is to try and put women in "their place", and make it so that any attack becomes the fault of a woman for not following the proper advice.
This makes the news, and suddenly all the other valuable information, including really charged ideas like not-binge drinking yourself into a stupor that really apply to both sexes, is on the same list as a bunch of hateful, inaccurate nonsense. Anyone that tries to bring up these points has to sit in the same boat as Todd Akin as a result.
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People Who Can't Get Vaccinated and the Loud Fringe: Just so we're clear on all the data here, vaccination doesn't cause autism and is responsible for lowering the incidents of life threatening disease all over the world. Though vaccines are not without risk, they have saved millions of lives and are widely regarded as the most effective and successful way to achieve greater health worldwide. Those are the facts.
It is also a fact that there are people who cannot have some or any vaccines because they are part of a tiny minority that has severe adverse reactions. Some people are allergic to components, others have had diseases or conditions that make the risk of a reaction far greater, and there's a pretty significant minority of people for whom vaccines just don't work as well as they do on others. They rely all the more on the herd immunity because of it.
However, whenever pro-vaccination advocates start screaming that anyone who doesn't vaccinate their children secretly hates them and wants them to die, who do you think they're going to ally themselves with? The screamers, or the crazy autism people who at least stand by the vulnerable population's desire to not be injected with something that could kill them? It's a really sticky position to be in, but like I said at the beginning, America loves making people choose sides.
Fans vs. Fanatics: Houston Press has a weird relationship with Juggalos. We love them, we hate them, and we deeply, deeply appreciate all the page views that come from talking about them. The world at large views them a strange, possibly dangerous lot, and certainly worthy of ridicule because, you know, that's the purpose of clown make-up!
But confession time, I love Insane Clown Posse. I always have. I don't listen much anymore, but I owned every Joker Card right up to what I thought was a very disappointing end of the Dark Carnival saga. Even these days, though, I'll happily sample whatever Shaggy and Violent J have to offer. If I bring that up in casual conversation, though, people look at me like I just admitted I sniff my sister's panties, and it's all because a bunch of people took it way too far.
I'm sure the same is true of myself and casual Doctor Who fans. They can't bring up a single aspect of the show and not get a two-hour conversation with me, and that makes it really annoying to the point they don't want to be associated with it anymore.
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Some People Are Really Kick-Ass Home-schoolers: When you hear the word "home-schooled" you immediately picture some weird religious zealot desperate to insure that his or her child is not poisoned by the secular world of knowledge, or perhaps a paranoid anti-government nutbar that fears Obama's secret indoctrination. Those people do absolutely exist, and often their kids suffer some rather glaring defects from a poor and skewed education.
Make no mistake, though, there are people who choose to home school that are out there kicking ass and taking names because there is no argument about the benefits of structured, competent, one-on-one education. Families of home-schoolers form co-opts in order to build athletic teams, school bands, and other group activities, or participate part-time in public schools for extra classes.
And according to a 2009 study by Michael Cogan at the University of St. Thomas, home-schoolers that go on to college are slightly, if not spectacularly better prepared than public, private, and Catholic school-educated children, especially in reading and writing. Clearly, there are millions out there, about 2 percent of the student population at last count, that do not deserve the sneering that we typically bestow on folks who think prayer is better than science class.
Legitimate Concerns About Monsanto and "OMG FRANKENFISH RUN!!!: You probably read a lot about GMOs, genetically modified organisms, and how they need to be banned so that we don't get cancer of the everything. Some facts about GMOs... you are one, based on pretty much the exact criteria that we've used since the beginning of agriculture. We've been screwing with the nature of our food and ourselves ever since we started planting seeds and burning meat before we eat it.
And all that work they do in the labs? That's actually way safer than the old method of just growing it and hoping it didn't make you evacuate your bowels in the wrong direction. The fact is, GMOs are generally safe, produce crops able to survive better in harsher conditions, and are a continued sign of science pushing us forward. All those pictures you see of rotting pig stomachs or whatever have nothing to do with GMOs.
Then you hear about Monsanto...
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There are a lot of reasons to dislike Monsanto, and most of them have nothing to do with the quality of the GMOs they produce. It has more to do with the fact they're freakin' huge and would kind of like to own all the food in the world. Research and development on GMOs is very, very expensive, and only someone like Monsanto can afford to do it. That means that you increasingly narrow the supply of seeds down from many sources to one source.
This can have a terrible affect on the biological diversity of our crops. While Monsanto is working constantly to make soy, corn, cotton, and other crops pest and disease resistant, the fact that so much of it comes from the same industrial source means that all it takes is one really unexpected new threat to tear through the homogenous mix we have now. Any biologist will tell you that the key to a strong species is diversity in the genes, and an industrial food model simply does not allow for that.
Not to mention that it makes farmers consistently dependent on just a few companies for their supplies. These are the reasons why the United Nations and other organizations are trying to change direction towards smaller, more localized farms. It has nothing to do with the idea that organic local food is magic and Monsanto makes tumor-corn, though you wouldn't know it to tell from my Facebook feed.