Donald Trump literally wants to beat up little guys

[Image: Screenshot from NBC News of Donald Trump speaking in Iowa, with the caption “What did Donald Trump think of the third night of the DNC?” and the headline, “Trump on DNC: ‘I Wanted to Hit Those Speakers So Hard'”]

Note/reminder: I am affiliated with no political party and endorse no presidential candidate at this time.

While watching Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech last night, I was browsing social media and came across a clip of Donald Trump saying what he thought of the speakers at the DNC. He said that he wished he could hit them. In particular, he wanted to hit a “very little guy… so hard that his head would spin and he wouldn’t know what the hell happened.”

These were Trump’s actual, exact words. Watch the clip for yourself.

As bombastic as Trump has been throughout his career and campaign, I was incredulous that he would speak these words as a serious presidential candidate. Though the clip appeared to be genuine, I actually contacted the fact-checking site Snopes, whose “What’s New” page I’ve had opened in a tab in my browser for months now. They replied that NBC News is a reliable source, so it was legit.

This is toxic masculinity at its baldest, echoed throughout social media from bullies who cry that “social justice warriors” are trying to take away their “free speech“. Trump is expressing, unfiltered, the desires of the “silent majority” he claims as his supporters.

And sadly, this is why I agree with Michael Moore that Trump will likely win. This is a nation of bullies. Little guys like me don’t stand a chance.

ETA: I’ve published an open letter on Medium in response to Donald Trump’s statements.

Religion and politics

[Image: Bishop Gene Robinson speaks into a microphone, accompanied by four other ministers.]

Back around 1990, I took a class called “Religion and Politics” from Professor Garry Wills* at Northwestern University. The man—a practicing Catholic—was so unassuming that I mistook him for a janitor on first encounter; I only found out later that he was actually rather famous. I learned from his class that the USA was one of the most religious—Christian, specifically—countries in the world, second only to Ireland in regular church attendance. Twenty-odd years later, I read Society without God by sociologist Phil Zuckerman, and learned that the USA was still far more religious than most other Western countries.

I had these facts in mind when reading an article in The Guardian about the Wikileaks revelation of an apparent DNC strategy to discredit Bernie Sanders based on his supposed atheism. As the article states and as I can verify from my own experience, many Jews in the USA are atheists or agnostics; one can claim a Jewish identity without a belief in God. (Green presidential candidate Jill Stein is an agnostic Jew, for example.) The same cannot be readily said of Christianity, although from reading Society without God I learned that there are many “cultural” Christians in Europe who are actually atheists. (In fact, the countries Zuckerman visited that had official state religions had far, far fewer religious adherents than the USA, where we supposedly have separation of church and state.)

In the article about Sanders, a Jewish supporter of Hillary Clinton states, “I’m gay and America would have less of a problem with a gay president than an atheist president.” I wouldn’t be surprised if this were true. Our country is and always has been overwhelmingly religious, and overwhelmingly Christian. Outside of progressive hubs like the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, atheists are still looked upon with distrust.

Some Christians are becoming more tolerant of the LGBT community, and I’ve spent a lot of time around queer religious people as part of the fight for marriage equality. I took the photo at the top of this post at a Eucharist ceremony (the only one I’ve attended to date), just prior to the 2011 San Francisco Pride Parade. Gene Robinson, pictured speaking, became the first openly gay Episcopalian bishop.

Jerry Peterson and Roland Stringfellow[Image: Jerry Peterson and Reverend Roland Stringfellow embrace at a marriage equality rally.]

I was hired to shoot the parade by Reverend Roland Stringfellow of the Coalition of Welcoming Congregations, pictured above in 2012 with his now-husband Jerry Peterson. Yes, in San Francisco we have plenty of openly gay interracial couples. But we still have respectability politics, and a dark-skinned black man with locs like Stringfellow is still at risk of police profiling, even if he is a Christian minister. (He and his husband-to-be had actually just been released from police custody when I took this photo, but their annual Valentine’s Day marriage equality sit-in at City Hall had been conducted with the police department’s prior knowledge and full cooperation.)

Religion and respectability politics are part of why I’ve heard nearly as much mention of God at the Democratic National Convention as I did at the Republican event. President Obama might have thrown a crumb to atheists by acknowledging “non-believers” in his inaugural address, but we’re still not fully trusted by the US-American public. Religious institutions get tax breaks, God is on our currency and in our Pledge of Allegiance (though the latter only since the 1950s), and most public officials swear in on Bibles. People who don’t care much about religion might not notice or be bothered by it, but when you’re a committed atheist, religion—and Christianity specifically—is very much in-your-face.

Our theistic, Christian foundation is part of why I don’t think our government can be reformed, even by third parties, to my satisfaction. What viable candidate is really going to call for complete pacifism? We now have a pair of vegan candidates in the Humane Party’s Clifton Roberts and Breeze Harper, but I’m still not convinced that continuing with our current system of government is a good plan.

Hearing Democrats at their convention compete with Republicans for who could praise our “great country” and military might the most just crystallized for me how unpatriotic I’ve become. I don’t agree that we’re the greatest country on Earth. I don’t have a better one in mind because I haven’t traveled abroad much. I’m just not into this “us versus them” mentality. I’m a US citizen by accident of birth, not by choice. And I’m questioning more and more every day whether or not I really want to stay here.

*ETA: Interesting analysis (from 1995) by Wills of the right to bear arms, in light of our country’s current debate over the Second Amendment.

My vote belongs to me

[Image: Partial headshot of Pax with the words: Pax Ahimsa Gethen | queer * black * trans * vegan * atheist | blogger * photographer | gender & animal liberation | pronouns: they * them * their]

Note/reminder: I am affiliated with no political party and endorse no presidential candidate at this time.

I’ve been watching some of the Democratic National Convention while following the coverage in The Guardian, as I did with the Republican convention.

First, I will congratulate Hillary Clinton on becoming the first female presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. I’m phrasing it that way rather than “major” party as the media has, because I’m tired of candidates like Cynthia McKinney (who I voted for in 2008) and Jill Stein (who I voted for in 2012) being relegated to “minor” status. Regardless, I can acknowledge her historic achievement just as I acknowledged Barack Obama’s, even though I didn’t vote for him either.

Hillary Clinton does not “own” my vote any more than Obama did. A candidate cannot “steal” or “take away” a vote from another candidate that was not theirs to begin with. I have not voted for a Democrat for president since 1992, and don’t intend to now, regardless of which state I live in or who the Republican opponent is.

Being black in no way obligates me to support the Democratic Party. While there certainly are “Bernie Bros” that have displayed racism and sexism, it disgusts me that supporters of Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein are being told that they are flaunting their white privilege just by backing these candidates. While I do have economic privilege, I am still black, trans, and in a same-sex marriage. I have plenty to be worried about in a Donald Trump administration, but I am still not voting for Hillary Clinton.

If Trump is elected—and I will not be surprised if he is—the only people I will blame are the people who actually voted for him. As Michael Moore pointed out, these voters will include some people who don’t really understand or care what is at stake, and just want to shake things up. I will blame them too, but I will not blame his presidency on anyone who voted for a third-party candidate, or chose not to vote at all.

If you want to vote for Clinton, by all means do so. Campaign for her if you like. But do not tell me that I am in any way obligated to vote for her or any other Democratic candidate. My vote belongs to me.

Thou shalt not kill

[Image: Assorted kitchen knives on a magnetic strip.]

I’m having trouble coping in a world that seems resigned to the inevitability of killing. Deliberate, premeditated killing. Whether of our “enemies” in other countries, “thugs” on our streets, or “livestock” on our farms, there always seem to be exceptions to the commandment that billions of people claim to live by: “Thou shalt not kill.”

As a pacifist, I don’t want guns “controlled,” I want them gone. All of them, not just “assault weapons” but handguns, rifles, and every other tool designed for the specific purpose of killing another person. I include animals as people, so I’m not interested in exceptions for killing a charging bear in the wilderness (for example). Humans—with the possible exception of the few remaining indigenous groups that have kept mostly to themselves—have encroached on the territory of other animals far too much already. (I’m not opposed to using tranquilizers and other non-lethal means to fend off attackers, however.)

The abolition of guns and other lethal weapons cannot and will not take place through legislation alone. Even without guns, humans will just kill each other with cars or knives. Eliminating murder completely might be impossible, but I have to believe that we can evolve beyond this culture of killing, even if it will take what seems like a miracle.

As an atheist, I’m not praying to any gods for a miracle, but I leave open the possibility that help might arrive through extraordinary means. I recently re/watched the entirety of Star Trek, from the original series through Enterprise. The one episode that stuck with me the most was “Errand of Mercy“. This was not because it was the episode that first introduced the Klingons, but because of another species: The Organians. Disguised as humans, they revealed themselves to be powerful beings of pure energy. Without violence, these pacifists neutralized the weapons of both the Klingons and the Federation, bringing on a (forced) peace treaty.

Of course, this morsel of Gene Roddenberryesque idealism was isolated; fighting and killing continued throughout the television series, and the Organians showed little regard for human life in a prequel episode. Still, I sometimes can’t help but think that intervention from an outside source is the only thing that will stop humans from being such a murderous species. Though the idea of a Supreme Being that created and rules over the world makes no sense to me, I’m entirely open to the possibility of other lifeforms that are so powerful that some humans would worship them as gods. In fact, I would find it very depressing if humans represented the most intelligent beings that the universe could come up with.

Some say that philosophizing about “big picture” things like this is what separates humans from our fellow animals. Even if that’s true, it’s no justification for killing them or treating them as property. If we won’t even stop murdering the most defenseless among us, what hope do we have to stop murdering each other?

I don’t have all the answers here, and I’m suspicious of those who claim they do. I only know that I want the violence to end.

The LGBTQ and The Donald

[Image: A rainbow flag partially covering the flag of the USA.]

Note/reminder: I am affiliated with no political party and endorse no presidential candidate at this time.

Yesterday I watched the official livestream of the Republican National Convention, while reading the coverage and commentary in The Guardian as I had for the previous three days. I turned the sound down for some of it, turning it back up to hear the cover band.* I have to admit that the music was excellent, despite my disgust at hearing songs by queer and black artists who would likely not be supportive of the Republican platform.**

The display of “cosmetic diversity” continued, with black, Asian, and gay Republicans attempting to show how wonderfully tolerant this party has become. Pastor Mark Burns, a black televangelist, led the crowd in a rousing chant of “All Lives Matter.” Korean-American Dr. Lisa Shin extolled the beauty of legal immigration and the American dream. Peter Thiel, a white cisgender male billionaire, told the audience that he was “proud to be gay“, and of the controversy over trans people using public restrooms, said “Who cares?”

Well, I care quite a bit, especially as I am still often misgendered as female. Ted Cruz, who thinks trans women are perverted men in dresses, also cares quite a bit about this issue, which is likely one of the reasons why he didn’t endorse Trump (who has flip-flopped around the subject). Should I be grateful that the RNC allowed a (wealthy white cis) gay man to openly disagree with their anti-LGBT platform at their convention? This is a crumb, a mere gesture, not true progress.

In his acceptance speech, Donald Trump quite awkwardly referred to the “LGBTQ community”. He did so in reference to the Orlando massacre, calling the 49 victims “wonderful Americans.”  He did not speak the name of a single one of those people, however, reserving that honor for a young woman who had been killed by a “border crosser”. He only promised to protect our “LGBTQ citizens” from “hateful foreign ideology,” using the murder of queer people of color as a prop for his Islamophobia.

Trump appeared to express genuine gratitude to the Republican audience for applauding his lines about the LGBTQ community. But again, these are mere crumbs, not real progress. If those Republicans really cared about our community, they would speak out against the many murders of trans women of color, whether or not those women were killed by “Islamic terrorists”. Of course, if they genuinely wanted to support our community, they wouldn’t be Republicans at all, not that the Democrats are doing much better in securing us equal rights in anything other than marriage. (Should I, a pacifist, really be grateful that openly trans people can now serve in the military?)

I found it interesting that, according to the Guardian, the term “LGBTQ” was the top trending search on Google last night. I’m reminded of what a bubble I live in when I see how many people are not familiar with that acronym. Granted, there are many variations on the term, but for those unaware, that configuration of letters stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning”. The awkward way Trump pronounced it indicated he might not even know what all of those letters mean himself. Or perhaps his speechwriters wanted to avoid alienating his evangelical supporters—whose support, Trump actually admitted, was not entirely deserved—by uttering the word “transgender”.

Regardless, though there are certainly transgender Republicans—Caitlyn Jenner being one of the most prominent—this party most definitely does not represent our interests in any way, shape, or form. Queer folks and cis people of color are only welcomed by the GOP if they practice respectability politics. Those politics were on prominent display throughout the Republican convention. And I fully expect to see more of them at the Democratic convention later this month.

*Guitarist and bandleader G.E. Smith, who I knew well from his days with Hall and Oates and Saturday Night Live, said of the 2012 Republican convention that he was not political and it was just a job to him; this year’s event was likely the same. I personally think this mindset is irresponsible for a prominent (and very likely financially secure) artist to take.

**From what I understand, organizations often license songs in packages from publishing companies for events like this. Whether artists can opt out of these arrangements isn’t clear to me.

Racism and “cosmetic diversity” at the Republican convention

[Image: The Washington Monument at the National Mall, Washington D.C.]

I have not watched the Republican national convention since 1988. This year I decided I needed to watch at least some of it to know how scared I should be about the future of this country. I’m following The Guardian’s coverage rather than watching a livestream, so I’m not tempted to throw a brick through my TV set. This is not fun popcorn-time entertainment for me; the outcome of the election affects my health and safety.

I was nauseated, though not surprised, at the racism displayed by speakers at the convention. Rudy Giuliani’s blatantly false assertion that police save lives without caring whether they are white or black infuriated me. And then they put an Uncle Tom sheriff at the podium to talk about BlueLivesMatter. My friend and fellow black vegan social justice advocate Aph Ko brilliantly dissected this scene in a Facebook post:

Sheriff David Clarke was invited to speak at the Republican National Convention. This is a great example of cosmetic diversity. Black bodies are welcome so long as they recite knowledge from the dominant class. We need to abandon the idea that “representation” is the *only* problem we have in our movements. The reality is, black knowledge isn’t welcome. This is why when we superficially scream about diversity (in terms of skin alone), we need to be careful because it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re getting a diversity of knowledges and perspectives. When diversity is viewed as a skin-deep thing, Clarke’s presence at the RNC is viewed as “progressive.”

I wish folks would talk more about this subject rather than the apparent plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s speech by Melania Trump’s speechwriters. I don’t support plagiarism by anyone, but I don’t like the inevitable slut-shaming and accent-mocking that accompanies criticism of her. I’ve read that the woman is fluent in five languages; that’s four more than I am. Regardless, she didn’t write the speech, and she’s not a politician.

My horror at the Republican convention should be in no way taken as support for the Democrats. As I’ve repeated frequently in this blog, I am registered with no political party and endorse no presidential candidates at this time. The only candidates I’m remotely considering voting for are Clifton Roberts and Breeze Harper of the Humane Party, and Jill Stein (VP candidate yet to be announced) of the Green Party.

I understand that Stein is picking up a lot of support from former Bernie Sanders supporters who were actually surprised that he endorsed Hillary Clinton (I was not). I did vote for her in 2012, but left the Green Party subsequently, and am not thrilled with her statement about her part-time “veganism” that includes fish and dairy. I am far from a single-issue voter, but cannot ignore speciesism or the watering-down of veganism.

I’m still convinced that the only way to fix this country is a non-violent revolution. I wish I knew how to help make that happen. I really do.

ETA: I made the mistake of tuning into live coverage of the RNC briefly this afternoon, just before the California delegation came up for the roll call. Four black (as far as I could tell) folks gathered at the mic, the woman from the group gleefully announced my state’s 172 votes for Trump (see video clip from 0:13 to 0:33), and led the delegation in a “We want Trump” chant.  To say it made me sick would be an understatement.

ETA 2, July 20: The black women near the beginning and end of this video clip say they’re voting for Trump because he’s not a politician, they’re sick of “crooked Hillary Clinton” and “political correctness”, and just because they’re black doesn’t mean they have to vote Democratic. (I definitely agree on that last point…)

Queer acoustics at The Lost Church

[Image: Mya Byrne sings while playing acoustic guitar on an indoor stage.]

Last night I spent an enjoyable evening at The Lost Church in San Francisco’s Mission District, where three singer-songwriters from the LGBTQIA community—Mya Byrne, Eli Conley, and Kathleen Knighton—performed beautiful acoustic music.

I came at the invitation of my friend Eli, from whom I’ve taken voice lessons. Eli is trans but acknowledges his privileges as a white man, and frequently speaks out for black folks and other people of color. I’d previously photographed him performing at a fundraiser to help stop gentrification in the Mission. In the wake of the most recent police murders of black folks, Eli wrote a beautiful song to express solidarity with Black Lives Matter:

After watching the video, I made it a priority to come see his latest concert. All of the performers were excellent, and it was a treat to be in a supportive space filled with queer and trans folks and our allies.

Mya Byrne at The Lost Church[Image: Mya Byrne sings and plays acoustic guitar on an indoor stage.]

Eli Conley at The Lost Church[Image: Eli Conley sings and plays acoustic guitar, accompanied by a tambourine player, on an indoor stage.]

Kathleen Knighton at The Lost Church[Image: Kathleen Knighton sings while playing acoustic guitar on an indoor stage.]

My full set of photos from the concert is available on Flickr. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

P.S. I now have accounts on Instagram and Pinterest. Though I don’t expect to use either of those services much myself, please tag me if you share my work on those networks. Since my preferred alias, “funcrunch”, was taken, I used my full name, as I have on my Facebook page: paxahimsagethen.

Rally against racist police

[Image: A rally attendee stands in a crowd, fist raised in the air.]

When I read the news about Alton Sterling, yet another black person murdered by the police, I didn’t want to write or talk about it. I was tired of racist comments about “thugs” and “All Lives Matter,” so I just linked to my friend Christopher Sebastian’s Facebook status, explaining that white allies should leave black folks alone to process our pain within our own communities. I logged off of Facebook for awhile, and tried to escape the crushing reality of racism and police brutality.

Then I read that the police murdered another black man, Philando Castile, the very next day. Then I heard about a lone shooter killing five police officers after a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas. And then I got a message from the San Francisco Food Not Bombs mailing list about a rally against racist police violence here in San Francisco. As nervous as I was about violence breaking out here too—from the police, not the protesters—I decided that I needed to attend.

I found more information about the rally on Facebook. Though this event had been shared over 7000 times, none of my Facebook friends had invited me to it; I seem to get lots of invites to animal rights protests and concerts though. Hmm… In any case, my partner Ziggy was out of town, and the couple of friends I mentioned the rally to were also out of town or unavailable. But one friend did ask me to text her after I got home so she would know I was OK, which I appreciated.

The event was co-sponsored by the ANSWER Coalition, Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, Justice 4 Alex Nieto Coalition, Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition, San Francisco Black Leadership Forum, San Francisco Black Lives Matter, and West County Toxics Coalition. I didn’t get the names of all of the speakers, but they included Frank Lara (the MC), Edwin Carmona-Cruz (ANSWER Coalition), Lawrence Shine (Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition), AeJay Mitchell, Edwin Lindo (one of the Frisco Five hunger strikers), Ashley Love (Black Trans Women’s Lives Matter), and members of BAYAN USA and GABRIELA USA (progressive Filipinx organizations). If anyone has names of others in my photos, please post them in a comment or send me an e-mail.

As I walked to the gathering place at Justin Herman Plaza, I passed by a group of police officers having some food in the nearby Jackson Square Historic District. I tensed up, but kept moving. I didn’t see an obvious police presence once I arrived at the plaza, but saw in news reports later that they were strategically positioned on rooftops. And once we started the march, they flanked us on either side, and barricaded the entrance of City Hall. Their presence did not make me, a black person, feel any safer.

Black Lives Matters signs[Image: People kneel on the ground creating signs reading “White Silence = Violence” and “#BlackLivesMatter”.]

Crowd at Justin Herman Plaza[Image: A crowd of people fills Justin Herman Plaza for a rally.]

I arrived a half an hour before the scheduled 6 p.m. start, as people were just beginning to gather. I took some photos, then parked myself directly in front of the microphone on the stage. By the time the program was underway, the entire plaza was filled with people, including many reporters and news cameras.

Rally against racist police[Image: Black trans activist Ashley Love speaks into a microphone, while other black speakers stand on stage and applaud. Standing next to Ashley are actor AeJay Mitchell, and Lawrence Shine of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition.]

Marching to City Hall[Image: Marchers carry signs reading “Stop Killing Us” and “Black Trans Lives Matter.”]

As with the other rallies I’ve attended over the last year, I was pleased with the support of and representation from queer and trans black folks. I saw one of the speakers, Lawrence Shine of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, during the march, and thanked him personally.

Speaker at rally against racist police[Image: A bearded man wearing a red, green, and black hat and scarf speaks into a microphone.]

One of the unscheduled speakers was a man who, as I later learned from seeing his photo in a news report, was the person I’d heard addressing the crowd from a megaphone while Lawrence Shine was speaking on stage. He was invited to come to the stage himself, and initially declined, but later accepted. He called out all the mostly non-black folks who were in attendance just to say “I was here,” and said, “This is not the work.” He disagreed with speakers who called for peace, saying that we needed to go into the police stations and destroy their computers (for starters). He spoke at length about anti-black racism and the need to dismantle the police system, and I had the feeling he would have spoken all night if the MC hadn’t (gently) taken the mic away from him, as others were waiting to speak.

I listened carefully to what this man said, and agreed with a lot of it. He had a brother in jail for protesting and had been unjustly imprisoned himself, so I won’t blame or shame him or any other black person for wishing violence upon his oppressors. Though during his speech, I was more concerned about retribution from the police or their operatives for what he was saying.

Regardless, I am still a pacifist. I did not choose the name Pax Ahimsa*—which became my legal name two years ago tomorrow—lightly. Adopting a name that literally translates to “peace” and “do no harm” was my commitment to always remaining non-violent, no matter what. I have a lot more thoughts on that subject, which I’ll share at another time.

Filipin@ speakers at rally[Image: A Filipina speaks into a microphone while others behind her hold signs expressing Filipinx solidarity with blacks.]

As the speaker noted, there were indeed a lot of non-black faces at the rally; San Francisco is only 3% black at this time. I have mixed feelings about the role of non-black allies at Black Lives Matter events. I feel it’s apparent that Latinx folks are subject to much of the same police violence as blacks. People of Asian descent, on the other hand, while still affected by racism, are not targeted as much by the police, at least here in the SF Bay Area. I do appreciate allies such as the members of the Filipinx groups who took the stage to express solidarity with black folks fighting against police violence. I’m not so sure about white folks raising their fists in a black power salute, or saying “we” when things don’t affect them personally though.

ETA: The Washington Post has been collecting data on police shootings. Their reports include a breakdown by race, but only white, black, Hispanic, and “other.” When reviewing this data, it’s important to take into account the percentage of each racial group in the U.S. population.

Once we left the plaza and began the march down Market Street, I felt grim and sad. Some others around me were smiling and laughing with their friends, but I was alone and depressed, thinking about how many times I’d marched down this street lately, for Orlando and the Trans March. While the latter was ostensibly a happier occasion, as an unofficial part of Pride weekend, most of the rallies and marches I’ve attended have been to protest discrimination and violence against people like me, not to be in a crowd and have a good time. As I’ve written frequently, I’m not just an introvert, but practically a hermit lately. I don’t go to protests because I want to, but because I feel obligated to—within the limits of my physical and mental capacities—and I feel a lot of my black and trans siblings are in the same boat.

Market Street sit-in[Image: A crowd of people sit on Market Street. One standing holds signs reading “Say It Loud, I’m Black & Proud!” and “White Supremacy Is Terrorism!”]

Reading names during sit-in[Image: Rally co-organizer Frank Lara reads from a list of names into a megaphone, while others watch and film.]

After walking several blocks, the march came to a halt, and people started sitting down, right in the middle of the street. I moved to the sidewalk to take photos, and located event co-organizer Frank Lara, reading the names of people killed by the police into a megaphone. After dozens of names were read, we resumed the march to City Hall.

Marching to City Hall in the fog[Image: A large group of marchers approaches San Francisco City Hall on a foggy evening.]

Filiming rally at City Hall[Image: A rally attendee films the gathering at San Francisco City Hall.]

I only stayed for the beginning of the rally at City Hall. I was too far back to hear the speakers clearly, and was feeling crowded, tired, cold, and nervous about possible violence as it was getting dark. From news reports, it appears some people stayed at the rally until at least 10 p.m., with police officers continuing to barricade the entrance; there were no incidents or arrests. More protests are planned in the Bay Area and around the country this weekend.

My full set of photos from the rally and march is available on Flickr. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

*I am aware that some may consider me taking the name Ahimsa (a term of Sanskrit etymology) to be cultural appropriation. I am willing to have a conversation about that concern with people who come from predominantly Hindu, Buddhist, or Jain cultures, but not with others, and not today.

Speciesism and security theater

[Image: A Muscovy duck stands on a path next to a lake.]

Content note: Description of violence against animals.

Yesterday, I needed to get out of the apartment. The management was turning off water in the building for repairs, as they’ve done an uncomfortable number of times lately. I can deal with no hot water, but with no running water at all, and noise from construction on the vacant units, I figured I should stop being a hermit and get outside for a few hours, as difficult as it is for me to be around people nowadays.

I ended up going to Golden Gate Park, wanting to visit Stow Lake to look at the birds. I’d run around that lake several times when I was in marathon training three years ago, but I was usually too tired and in too much pain by that point in the run (especially on the return leg) to appreciate the views. I wanted to go there now with no agenda, no time limit, and no heavy camera (the snapshot at the top of this post was taken with my cell phone).

As I set out, it was a typical “summer” morning in San Francisco: weather in the mid-50s and overcast. Though this weather is ideal for running, it wasn’t so good for casual strolling, especially as I was feeling very depressed.

Once I arrived at the lake, I enjoyed watching various geese, ducks, and other birds. Some approached me, then wandered off, probably because I didn’t offer any food. But I won’t pretend to know their thoughts; I’m not an expert in animal behavior, and I’m sometimes uncomfortable seeing animal advocates ascribing emotions to our fellow animals to “humanize” them. The only things I know for sure is that they want to live, don’t want to be imprisoned, don’t want their bodies manipulated, and don’t want their children taken away from them. For me, that—lack of consent—is reason enough to leave them alone, regardless of their feelings or intelligence.

I watched one duck, the one pictured at the top, for awhile, as he (I believe he was a male) preened his feathers. I felt very sad, thinking about the billions of birds we kill for their eggs and flesh every year. I remembered a scene in Cowspiracy where a backyard farmer selected a duck from his flock of prisoners to kill, and chopped their head off with an axe. I’ve watched that film three times, and every time I’ve closed my eyes just before the axe came down. I cannot bring myself to watch that scene. I think that the people who need to watch that scene are the ones who have no problem eating the flesh or eggs of “humanely-raised” animals, not me.

After leaving the lake, I wandered the park and came upon the de Young Museum. I knew that being the first Tuesday of the month, the museums were all offering free admission, but I didn’t particularly want to see the exhibits; I was just hoping to find a restroom. As I approached the building, before I got within twenty feet of one of the side doors, a security guard came out and demanded that I open my backpack. As these were the first words anyone had spoken directly to me in over two days (as I’m a hermit, and Ziggy has been out of town), I just stood there in mild shock.

I soon recovered and complied. He looked in my (mostly-empty) backpack, then said that I would have to hold it in my hand, not on my back. I decided I didn’t really want to go in the building at that point, so I just wandered around the sculpture garden, holding the backpack in my hand as instructed. I felt shaken, though relieved he had at least addressed me as “Sir” instead of “Ma’am.” I didn’t think he was racially profiling, as I saw him asking the same of white visitors, and he was a black man himself. I just wondered whether this policy was actually making a real difference to the safety of park visitors, or if it was another example of security theater.

I worry that we are going to devolve into more and more of a police state, without any true reduction in violence. I believe that our culture of killing that allows us to breed and slaughter billions of our fellow animals every year extends to how we treat our fellow human beings. This is not to say that vegans are necessarily less violent than non-vegans; I’ve seen terribly oppressive behavior from vegans since becoming active in animal rights, which I’ve documented on numerous occasions. But just as our US-American “Independence Day” really only celebrates the liberation of a select few, I believe we cannot have true peace and liberation as long as we continue to dominate every other species on the planet.

I don’t have all the answers to how to eradicate violence. It will never be possible to do so completely; we cannot exist without destroying life. But we can certainly do a better job at co-existing with others than we are doing right now. Veganism is one part of how we can evolve into a truly peaceful species.

One year blogiversary

[Image: Partial headshot of Pax with the words: Pax Ahimsa Gethen | queer * black * trans * vegan * atheist | blogger * photographer | gender & animal liberation | pronouns: they * them * their]

Tomorrow will be the one-year anniversary of this blog. Though I later imported and backdated a couple of entries from my old blog, my first official post was on July 2, 2015. Since then, I’ve posted 187 entries, and my blog has had over 19,000 visitors and over 30,000 views.

Wordpress blog post stats[Image: A screenshot with the title “All-time posts, views, and visitors” and the text “Posts: 187; Views: 30,066; Visitors: 19,104; Best views ever: 1,859, June 3, 2016.”]

Google Analytics for[Image: A screenshot with the title “Google Analytics Dashboard” and a list of page titles and numbers.]

As with my Flickr photos, my most popular entries do not necessarily correspond with what I consider to be my best work. My most popular entry to date was about the expanded gender customization options in The Sims video game. This got a large number of hits solely because I shared it with popular vlogger Kat Blaque on her Facebook page, and she shared it with her readers. I need to write a follow-up entry now that I’ve played with the updated game more, as in my initial excitement I failed to realize that the game does still enforce the gender binary in significantly problematic ways.

My second most popular post, on Prince’s vegan diet (or lack thereof), was posted the day after his death, and continues to get a steady trickle of hits and occasional comments. I’ve added updates to that post as I’ve learned new information, which I’ve also helped incorporate into Prince’s Wikipedia page. But really, part of my point in the post was that we shouldn’t focus on vegan celebrities so much, so I’d rather people read my other posts about speciesism and animal rights.

My third and fourth most popular entries were on the important theme of oppression, especially anti-black racism, in the vegan movement: “White vegans need to check their privileges” and “Dear marginalized vegans: You are enough.” Both received a larger number of comments than usual for my entries, including several negative for the former, all of which I published (I generally publish all comments that are not obvious spam or trolling). I got a fair amount of praise and thanks for the latter, which Sarah K. Woodcock of The Advocacy of Veganism Society also invited me to read aloud for her podcast.

For more of what I consider to be my most important blog posts, see my “Best of 2015” round-ups of animal rights and gender-related posts. Too soon to do a round-up for 2016, but I think “Dear marginalized vegans” will make the list.

If my words or pictures have educated, entertained, or moved you in any way, please consider supporting me with a Patreon sponsorship or one-time tip. Free photography isn’t free to produce, and writing takes time and effort as well. So if you like my work and have the means, any amount you can give would be appreciated. Thank you to my sponsors, past and present, whether you’ve contributed one dollar or over a hundred.