Posts tagged ‘Morality’

Excerpt from “Safe Mode”

Even if you think you have nothing to hide, it always makes sense to cover your e-tracks. When it used to matter, I had three browsers I’d use for different purposes. Google Chrome was for email, LinkedIn, casual browsing, and other activities I generally didn’t need to purge from my record. Firefox . . . I forget. And then there was Internet Explorer.

At one point, I had two YouTube accounts—one I’d open with Google Chrome, and the other I’d open with Internet Explorer. But then they made you link your YouTube account to your Google account. So I linked my “legit” account to my Google account and dropped the other one, the Internet Explorer one. So there were some videos I just didn’t get to see after that. Which was a shame. It wasn’t like they were illegal or immoral or wrong or anything. I just felt paranoid about looking at anything restricted through my Google account.

I liked at least to pretend I was anonymous. That’s what I’d use Internet Explorer for—all of my anonymous activities. I had some silly username like gemini84 (I’m a Sagittarius and wasn’t born in ’84), and I’d change my password regularly (It would always be something nonsensical like &%$#fraDujlKja9899i9W23). None of that ultimately mattered, but at least I felt I had a sense of autonomy and privacy in a world of virtual spotlights and actual predators.

Turns out I was wise to drop that YouTube account, never to enjoy those restricted videos. Somewhere out there, they really do have more records than the KGB.

December 5, 2011 at 12:28 am 2 comments

Excerpt from “Safe Mode”

Professor Heart Attack (not to be confused with Professor Heartache) used to always tell me that the future—and the now (then)—was all about information sharing and social networks. He had a bit of an obsession with Mark Zuckerberg (and, incidentally, with me). He used to tell me things like, “If I were Mark’s father, I’d tell him to marry you.”

It just so happened that I was a freshman at Princeton when Mark Zuckerberg was a freshman at Harvard. (No, I don’t know him personally. I know a handful of people who went to Exeter with him, but whatever. It doesn’t matter.) When I joined Facebook my sophomore (or was it junior?) year in college, back when it was called “The Facebook,” I had no idea what a key role it would play in my undoing.

I used to resent that Professor Heart Attack, more than 30 years my senior and (last time I heard) without a cell phone or personal email account, was so ahead of my time. He was seemingly compassionate, extremely intelligent, not at all attractive, cosmopolitan, wealthy, and—it turns out—deeply insecure and duplicitous. It seemed cruelly ironic that he—of all people—appeared to escape the disaster when most of us had our worlds ripped out from under us.

Of course, he hadn’t anticipated the ultimate irony. Neither had I.

October 19, 2011 at 9:37 pm 6 comments

Taking Back the Night: A Feminist’s Response to Yale’s DKE Incident

No means yes! Yes means anal!”  chanted the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity pledge class while marching across the Yale campus last week. This egregiously offensive and threatening speech must be punished, and we need to open up a dialogue about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses in general and by fraternity members in particular.  While I commend Dean Mary Miller and President Richard Levin for making a public statement condemning DKE’s actions, this should just be a first step in a longterm, comprehensive plan for creating a safer social environment in colleges and universities across the country.

Unfortunately, the DKE incident does not surprise me, and I can no longer remain silent about my experience.  In an ongoing attempt to reclaim my agency (which was, to borrow the words of Billy Joel, “something I’d never lose, something somebody stole”), I share my story and take back the night that fundamentally and almost catastrophically changed my life.

The president of a Yale fraternity raped me when I was an undergraduate.  I didn’t tell anyone about it for over a year because I was in denial about what had happened.  Like so many victims of sexual abuse, I blamed myself.  Shortly after the incident, I became bulimic and extremely self-destructive.  I cried myself to sleep almost every night—and, although I was never suicidal, I had a sincere death wish. Seven years later, I have overcome most of the shame and hurt associated with such a devastating loss of agency, but I continue to suffer.  Writing has really facilitated my ongoing quest to reclaim my autonomy and self-confidence. Below is a post I previously wrote about the incident.  I changed names and immaterial details to preserve anonymity:

I strode along the curb of Prospect Street toward Alpha Nu as he ambled—slightly drunkenly—on my right.  I met Tex, a Bulldog linebacker and president of Alpha Nu, at Josh’s track party that night.  The cross-country team had already had its first race of the season the day before, and I still felt a bit high from performing well.  It was the beginning of September, and fall always seemed to arrive early in New Haven.  The temperature must have dropped 20 degrees since the track party had come and gone, and I started to wish I had worn a jacket.

A black Escalade zoomed by, nearly splashing me with a wave of cold, grimy water.

Tex tugged me away from the road.  “Whoa! Let’s switch places. I’m more than twice your size.  No one’s gonna hurt me, and no one’s gonna hurt you while you’re with me.”  He ran his fingers through his dishwater blond hair, sweaty from dancing, and winked.  We held each other’s clammy hands. “That’s kinda sweet,” I thought.

“You’re big and strong and all, but that doesn’t make you invincible.”  I dropped his hand and softly punched his shoulder.  (This was my attempt at coyness.)  I had a weakness for “teddy bear” guys because they seemed so manly and so eager to protect, but I figured it was too early to let on that I might actually be into him.  I hoped to continue the interesting conversation we had begun at Josh’s apartment, and maybe we would kiss and caress for awhile. I hadn’t had many sexual partners, and I just wanted to date people and to generally take things slowly.

“Well, I promise you’re safe with me.  Besides, we’re almost there.  I apologize in advance for the mess.  I didn’t know I’d be meeting such a lovely lady tonight.” Tex put his arm gently around my waist, pulling me closer to him.

But Tex didn’t keep his promise—and, although he apologized for the bite marks in an email the next day, he never said he was sorry for all that transpired later that night.

I wish I could truly take back that September night, but I will never forget what happened.  When I talked about it with some close girlfriends, two of them admitted they had also been raped at Yale.  Both friends chose not to report the events because they didn’t think anyone would believe them.

In light of this, I don’t think hate speech like DKE’s chant should be protected by the First Amendment.  When one form of expression is so abhorrent and so offensive that it chills the expression and threatens the emotional well-being of others, the government should be able to impose liability.  Not only did some of DKE’s members deeply offend many students, but they also voiced support for a culture of sexual violence.  The young men who chanted and/or incited such hateful speech should, at the very least, be suspended.  They have assaulted the vibrant, tolerant marketplace of ideas that should thrive at all institutions of higher education. Through hate speech, these men supported heinous mentality and behavior, casting a pall over the Yale campus and beyond.

I am symbolically taking back the night that had taken so much from me.  Although I’ll never forget what happened, its effects continue to fade into a seemingly distant past.  I hope we all take a moment to consider the individual and societal ramifications of sexual abuse and hate speech and how we can learn from this recent assault on intellectual freedom, social progress, and humanity.

October 21, 2010 at 11:31 pm 3 comments

Penalty Wages: What Every Employee Should Know

Let’s say Joe Blow works as a mechanic at a dealership and earns $17/hour. Fed up with “office” politics and inadequate support from upper management, Joe quits his job. He recently received his bi-weekly paycheck, so he is only owed four more days of pay. Livid at Joe’s inconvenient resignation, the dealership refuses to issue a final paycheck. This obstinacy, however, could cost Joe’s former employers more than they realize.

Colloquially know as the “penalty wage law,” ORS 652.150 requires the timely payment of wages upon termination of employment. If the “employer willfully fails to pay any wages or compensation of any employee whose employment ceases, as provided in ORS 652.140 and 652.145, then, as a penalty for such nonpayment, the wages or compensation of such employee shall continue from the due date thereof at the same hourly rate for eight hours per day or until action therefor is commenced.”

While there are some exceptions and limitations, the bottom line is that Joe’s former employer owes him up to $4,080 ($17/hour x 8 hours x 30 days) more than they bargained for. In Oregon, an employer who refuses to issue final payment in a timely manner owes the former employee up to thirty days of pay in addition to the money withheld. Other states have similar wage and hour laws, but Oregon is known for being particularly “employee-friendly” in such cases. An important thing to note is that “30 days of pay” is not the same as “one month’s pay”; it’s more! (30 days = 30 business or work days)

Some people may wonder why employers who understand such wage and hour statutes continue to cheat employees out of money owed, especially if the potential penalty could be costly. The answer is simple: Most people don’t completely understand their rights as workers. In the long run, corrupt employers profit off of this unawareness because, for every person who acts to recover his pay, many more simply write off the nonpayment as an unfortunate loss.

June 10, 2009 at 5:53 pm Leave a comment

ACLU Presents Case of Savana Redding to US Supreme Court

When she was 13, Savana Redding endured a humiliating strip-search (in which she had to bare her breasts and genitalia) after a classmate falsely accused her of possessing ibuprofen pills. The school officials who instigated this traumatic event violated Redding’s civil rights and betrayed the trust and respect of the parents and students of Safford United School District.

Most news articles regarding this event and its aftermath criticize the school officials for acting so rashly on uncorroborated evidence. While I agree that using mere accusations to justify a strip-search is completely uncalled for, I think the act of forcing children to reveal their private parts for any reason needs to be seriously examined. If Redding had been accused of bringing cocaine to school, I still think other avenues of interrogation and corroboration should have been explored. After all, if the officials had found ibuprofen pills on Redding’s person, the civil rights of a child would have still been violated.  Which is worse: Possessing prescription-strength painkillers on school grounds…or forcing a minor to show her body parts to adults?

The other issue this case brings up is that of the “war on drugs.” I remember when, as a middle and high school student, I received explicit instructions (punishable by the wrath of God) not to keep any kind of drug in my backpack, locker, or car. Even asthmatics had to check their inhalers in at the nurse’s office. I was so used to this rule that I endured all of college without using Advil, Tylenol, etc. (it was second-nature not to pick it up at the drugstore without first consulting an adult). Shouldn’t the school have spent more time handing out condoms than taking away aspirin?

And now I’ve been hearing all these ads about how terrible marijuana is and how it will ruin your life. “Above the Influence” commercials air on any TV station that caters to the “under 30” demographic. I recognize that weed, in addition to being illegal (which it shoudn’t be, but that’s for another time), impairs ones ability to drive and operate heavy machinery. That said, shouldn’t we be spending our publicly-funded advertising dollars on preventing the use of drugs like heroin and speed? Again, which is worse: Allowing a bunch of potheads to binge on Doritos and Ding Dongs after school…or overlooking a group of students snorting coke in the locker room?

This morning, the US Supreme Court heard arguments from Savana Redding’s attorney with the ACLU. From one woman to another, I commend the young lady (six years have passed since that fateful day) for having the courage to pursue justice.

April 21, 2009 at 9:25 pm 1 comment

When Bad Things Happen to Bad People

When bad things happen

To bad people, I exult.

When good things happen…

 

February 19, 2009 at 11:38 pm Leave a comment

I Didn’t Mean to Be Mean

I didn’t mean to be mean
When I screamed, when I wept
I didn’t want to be wanted
I just needed to be kept
I’m so used to being used
Your pure intentions
Are abuse
If you’d struck me, if you’d fuck me
You’re like the others –
Cold but lucky

It was simple being easy
So I blame you
When you please me
For saving me from deadly habits
That die hard
For making me smile
For taking me far
Far from here
Far from blue
Further from home
Furthest from you
So, to that end, I must implore:
If you hated me
Would I love you more?

Disparate but never desperate
We’re violently in love
As luck would have it

December 19, 2008 at 9:38 pm 4 comments

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