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March 2012

Sperm Are People Too!

By Brian Dann

SpermMany Christians and those on the right believe that life begins at conception.  I’m gonna say something that may get me in trouble and it may come back to bite me but oh well, here it goes.  I think they’re crazy! I think they have totally missed the boat here.  There is no way that life begins at conception, that is just utter ridiculousness, because the real truth is life begins much, much, much earlier than at conception. The truth is life begins at Spermatogenesis, or the creation of sperm.  Oh, I know what you are saying to yourself. That is just a bunch of stinkin’ thinkin’ Brian. Well Darnit! (oops! please forgive me for swearin’ like a Mormon who couldn’t baptize a dead Jew,) but this whole “when does life begin” debate really gets my panties in a holster!   Have you ever seen sperm up close?  Seriously, they are so darn cute with their oversized heads and their long wriggily tails! They're like tiny little half people! Couldn't you just eat them up?!  But I wouldn’t because that would be wrong, and not for the reasons that you are thinking you sick little puppy. But because of what I said earlier. Life begins at spermatogenesis.  Basically any waste of sperm should be considered murder.  That would mean that any type of sexual act that doesn’t have the possibility of resulting in conception would be considered a crime.  That would include, anal sex, oral sex, sex with a condom, sex with any form of birth control, sex with a women who knowingly cannot conceive, homosexual sex, and of course masturbation, or as I like to call it, Sperma-genocide or the mass murder of millions of potential human lives.  But to take this one step further, I would be in favor of allowing men to masturbate only after they are forced to undergo an ultrasound to show them the inside of their scrotum as well as watch a video of sperm happily swimming around like little children in a pool.  I would also have them meet with an adoption counselor who could inform them of the many places sperm can be donated for storage and eventual adoption to a loving couple. Then I would have them participate in counseling to discuss their decision to masturbate, and finally wait 3 days before they can actually perform the masturbation.  Sounds crazy?  Sounds like harassment and intimidation to try to get men not to masturbate?  Well here are just some of the actual laws that currently exist or have been proposed to harass and intimidate women into not getting an abortion or in some cases even make if illegal.
In South Dakota women must attend a lecture at a “pregnancy crisis” center which are actually anti-choice, anti-contraception facilities and must wait a first ever 72 hours before being allowed to have an abortion.
Arizona passed a law that imposes criminal penalties on doctors who perform abortions with the knowledge that the race or sex of the fetus is a factor in the decision to abort.
In Ohio there is a bill that would outlaw any abortion after a detectable heartbeat can be found which is normally around six weeks.
A Texas bill would require doctors to provide women with a sonogram of the fetus and to hear the heartbeat before performing an abortion.  Women would be allowed to close their eyes and cover their ears.  Victims of rape or incest would not be exempt.
In Kansas and Idaho there are proposals to ban abortions after 20 weeks on the claim that this is when a fetus can first experience pain, even though the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that there is no evidence of this.  The Kansas bill will also require doctors to tell women that abortions increase their risk of breast cancer, “a controversial theory that the World Health Organization, the National Cancer Institute and gynecological groups in the United States and the United Kingdom have said is incorrect,” according to an article in the Huffington Post.
Virginia just passed a bill that requires internal ultrasounds before performing abortions, or basically forcing a women to be penetrated without her consent, thereby raping her,  in order to show women what they are about to abort.
A bill in Georgia would force a woman to carry a fetus past 20 weeks even if it is dead, regardless of the health of the women or any other fetus that may be alive in the womb as well.
Now I don’t want to point fingers here or make this strictly a political issue but it is kind of too late for that since all of these laws or bills have been a result of Republican law makers putting their own religious values before the rights and health of women in this county.  They don’t care if woman dies because a dead fetus is in her body, or if a girl is pregnant because she was raped by her father.  And to use tactics of intimidation to guilt women into not going through with an abortion is frankly despicable.  Republican law makers have shown time and time again that the health rights of women in this country simply do not matter to them as much as their religious beliefs do.  This has been shown in everything from the Religious Republican Tea Party war on contraception, to their attempts to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act or what they refer to as ObamaCare, a term that I could not be happier with.  Any time they want to use the words Obama and Care together is just fine by me.
If Republican law makers had their way in this country, abortions, including those from rape or incest would be illegal, women would pay more for health insurance then men simply because women use doctors more often than men do.  Women’s preventive health screenings, including mammograms, and cervical cancer screening, would no longer be free.  Provisions in ObamaCare for mothers who are breast feeding, including break time to pump or breast feed as well as a clean place to do so other than a bathroom would be eliminated.  Birth control pills would not be covered by insurance companies, even though women use birth control for many things other than birth control, including regulating cycles, controlling ovarian cysts, even eliminating allergic reactions to progesterone.  It has been proven time and time again that it is less expensive for insurance companies to provide women with birth control pills then it is to pay for everything from delivery, to the ongoing cost of unwanted pregnancies,  to treatments for cancer, and so on. The insurance companies have no problem with free contraception for women, it’s the Republican religious law makers who do, and most of them are men.
But where does Mitt Romeny and Paul Ryan stand on womens health issues?  Well Mitt Romeny has been very clear on where he stands.  He has pledged to roll back ObamaCare and take away all of the benefits that this legislation provides women.  He has pledged to defund Planned Parenthood even though the majority of their services have nothing to do with abortions and it is currently illegal for Planned Parenthood to take federal money for abortions.  And on the question of free contraception, he said, if you want free stuff, “vote for the other guy.”  I plan to.  As far as Paul Ryans’s views go, Mr. Ryan co-sponcered the Protect Life Act in 2011 which would allow hospitals to refuse to provide referrals for abortion if the facility does not provide abortion services, effectvly allowing a women who requires an abortion to save her life to die on the floor.  I am normally pretty tolerant of other people’s views, but letting a women die becuse your religious convictions trumps saving a womens life is basically bat-shit crazy!
Lastly let’s put this all into some perspective.  Many Republican law makers in states including Florida, Virginia, Arizona, South Dakota and Texas, put so much time and effort into pushing through legislations to harass and intimidate both women who want or need an abortion, sometimes for health reasons, and doctors who perform these services, and who have joined with religious leaders to restrict the rights of women to have basic health services such as screenings and contraception provided to them free of charge, are the same Republican law makers who refuse to put any restrictions on the sale of hand guns to any person regardless of their mental capacity or criminal record.  They will let any individual, no questions asked walk onto a gun show and with no background check of any kind, walk out with as many lethal weapons as they can carry, weapons that have been leaked to terrorist attacks, Mexican drug cartels, gang activity, and even school shootings.  Apparently to them, killing people before they are born is a no no, but after they are born is just fine.   Women in this country deserve better then to be given less consideration then an insane criminal at a no-questions-asked gun show.  If it were men facing these health issues, there would be no issues. No one is asking men to pay a co-pay on a prostate exam or forcing them to watch a prostate being removed. 
To declare that life begins with spermatogenesis, as I did earlier, may seem a bit over the top but the Wilmington Delaware City Council doesn’t think so. They recently passed a resolution by a vote of 8 to 4 that states, “Each 'egg person' and each 'sperm person' should be deemed equal in the eyes of the government and be subject to the same laws and regulations as any other dependent minor and be protected against abuse, neglect or abandonment by the parent or guardian…laws should be enacted by all legislative bodies in the United States to promote equal representation, and should potentially include laws in defense of 'personhood,' forbidding every man from destroying his semen.”  You see, be careful what you ask for. Apparently sperm are people too.



I Am White.

By Brian Dann


I am white.  Honestly, I don’t really think about it much, being white that is.  Being white really has not been much of a problem for me in my life, in America.  No one has ever looked at me with suspicion because I’m white, or pulled me over in a wealthy neighborhood because I’m white, or denied me a place to live, because I’m white.  I’ve never lost a job interview, because I’m white, or been asked why so many of us white guys are standing around together, because we’re white. No one has ever crossed the street to walk on the other side when they see me coming, because I’m white, or refused to serve me, because I’m white.  And no one has ever wondered why I am walking around their neighborhood, a neighborhood where my father also lives, pursuing me even though the police said not too, while calling me a racial slur, and shot me in the head, killing me…and then claim self defense because they think a box of Skittles and an Ice tea are dangerous weapons…because I’m white.  Honestly, that just doesn’t happen to us white guys, and I’ve come to learn that there’s a name for that, White Privilege.  Now I didn’t make this up, it really exists, and if you’re not white, you’re thinking to yourself, no joke it exists, because if you are black in this country, what happened to Trayvon Martin, is the fear of every black mother and father in this country, that their son or daughter, or even themselves, will be harassed, discriminated against or even killed, because of no other reason than they are black. If Trayvon was white, this would not have happened.    

Personally I never heard of White Privilege until the tragedy of Trayvon Martin.  I knew that as a white person in America there were obviously some situations in life that I did not have to deal with, some ways in which society reacted towards me that was different then how they may react towards a black person, but I lived my life never giving it much thought as probably most white people do.   I never heard it defined before with the term White Privilege.  But before I even heard what the actual definition of what White Privilege was, I knew instantly that the phrase fit, it just made sense.  As a liberal, progressive white person, I sometimes like to think that things have gotten so much better in this country.  I like to think that because I don’t tend to make color an issue in my own life, because I prefer my kids to be in a school that is more culturally diverse, because I teach my kids to treat all people equally regardless of any differences, because I just don’t encounter the type of prejudice that many black people encounter on a daily basis, and I don’t usually give it much though as to why, I’ve come to falsely believe, as many have, that things have changed.  And while we have come a long way in the way of civil rights in this country, the tragedy of Trayvon Martin is a stark reminder that serious, unjust discrimination still exists in this county.  And the fact that I don’t encounter these daily acts of prejudice, and I don’t have ongoing fears of being harassed, beat up, or even killed because of the color of my skin means that by default, I have White Privilege, whether I like it or not.  And while some may think that having Privilege is something good, in this case it means that we have very far to go in this country before the dream of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. will be fully realized.  

Now let there be no misunderstanding.  I have been discriminated against in my life.  I am Jewish.  I have experienced blatant outright ugly discrimination against me for no other reason than I am Jewish.  I experienced kids who teased and beat me up on the playground while they called me Jew boy.  I had a co-worker make blatant, anti Jewish remarks that were so offensive the non Jews in the office complained.  He was fired. But the difference is that while some people may be able to look at me and think because of some facial features, I may be Jewish, it’s not as evident as the color of a black person’s skin.  I have never been pulled over in Highland Park, Illinois because I looked Jewish, but a co-worker of mine was pulled over in Highland Park, Illinois because he was black.  I have White Privilege, because of no fault of my own. When I enter a store, no one is going to wonder if I might steal something.  I can be assured that I will be treated well at almost any restaurant I go to, and if I travel to certain parts of the south, unless they find out I’m Jewish, and last time I checked I was not wearing a gold Jewish star anywhere on my clothing, no one will harass me. I have White Privilege, but unlike most privilege, this is not something to be proud of.  What it means is that our country, because of decades of legalized slavery, because of decades of legalized segregation in both the north and south, because of civil rights legislations that while they were an enormous sign of progress and long over due when they were past, they have also made us complacent.  The laws were passed to de-institutionalize discrimination in this country, but many of the attitudes have remained, and because it is now easy to point at the law and say “well it’s now illegal”, we have stopped putting forth the effort to change what was at the core of the prejudice in the first place, the fear, the ignorance and the misunderstanding.   

I recently asked my friends on Facebook what they believe White Privilege to be.  I was hoping to get responses mostly from the black people I am friends with simply because I wanted their perspective that as a white man I could never have.  One wonderful woman, Shawn, who I met on my trip to Australia in December 2010, said “I believe it to be an overall conclusion that you are…trust worthy, right, better, more beautiful, deserve more respect, and not held to the same standards as non whites.”  She then went on to say, “And with that said, I think it’s all crap.  I don’t believe that anyone is better than me.  I am simply amazing. Believe that.”  I do believe that.  I believe that Shawn is simply amazing as are all of us.  I believe that the color of our skin should never give us privilege over someone else. I believe that a country where a man can shoot a seventeen year old boy in the head because of the color of his skin, who is carrying nothing but an Ice tea and a bag of Skittles, and not get arrested, and hide behind a ridiculous law that let him claim self defense, and have the police dismiss the entire situation, says more about the failure of our society as a whole, then it does about this one individual man who killed out of hate and ignorance. I believe that we have much more work to do then just bringing this one man to justice and having him pay for his crime. I believe we must use this crime as a call to action to reform attitudes in this country so that Trayvon Martin’s life has meaning and so that his parents who were so proud of their son can continue to be proud of him.  As our President said "I can only imagine what these parents are going through, and when I think about this, I think about my own kids…If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.”Trayvon does look like our President, and just think how much it must have meant to Trayvon to see someone who looks like him become president.  That is not something this President could ever say about me.  I am white.