CISPA Blackout

cispablocked

For a list of sites participating in the online CISPA Blackout. Please visit here: http://anonyops.com/cispablackout/othersites.php

If you do decide to put a banner up, you can get added to the list by e-mailing anonyops@gmail.com.

Not sure what CISPA is and why you should oppose it? Check out my STOP CISPA post below.

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STOP CISPA

Stop-Cispa

There is a major vote coming up in the Senate about CISPA. The House has already passed it. If you use the internet in any capacity (Facebook, Google, Twitter, Wikipedia, Reddit, WordPress, etc,) you stand to have your 4th amendment rights and privacy violated…and not even know it’s happening!

The Constitution must not end where the digital domain begins.

Would you let police or government officials randomly invade your home, record your phone calls, comb through your financial records, search and seize whatever interests them without a warrant or reason?

CISPA will allow them to do that to any and all information about you online. Not only that, but they don’t even have to let you know that they’re doing it. Oh, and they’re also allowed to use 3rd PARTIES in order to obtain the information. 3rd parties that then have access to your information and have very loose definitions and little-to-no oversight preventing them from using it for other means.

If you have been subject to this, and you somehow happen to find out about it, you will have no legal recourse to dispute their actions or their claims. So, if there is a mix-up or a case of mistaken identity, you could suffer these ramifications with no way of rectifying the situation.

This will also have international ramifications because CISPA can override any site’s Terms of Service. So, for example, CISPA would allow Canadian (or any other country’s citizens) online data to be available to the US government without a warrant.

Let’s talk about those loose definitions for a moment. CISPA, as it’s currently written, allows greater access to your personal information by the government. Here’s a quote from the bill defining “Cyber Threat:”

“Information in the possession of an element of the intelligence community directly pertaining to a vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or a network of a government or private entity.” (emphasis mine)

So, if you were to cleave to the letter of the law, the next time you tweet something negative about- let’s say AT&T’s customer service- they could say you were a threat to their business. See how such broad definitions in this bill could leave the door open for future abuse?

Okay, now let’s look at another part of their definition of “Cyber Threat:”

“Theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property or personally identifiable information.” (emphasis mine)

Intellectual property has been a hot topic for corporations ever since the internet was born. I believe in giving due credit to owner’s of intellectual property. I’m not a proponent of people who steal the hard work of others. (Duh, I’m a blogger! Cite me if you’re going to quote me, amiright?)

That being said, there have been many cases where corporations have taken things to the extreme. If they had their way, we would not have an iTunes. Justin Bieber would still be some kid singing in his basement (remember, he got his start on YouTube, singing cover songs of “intellectual property.”) We, as bloggers, would probably be getting sued left and right for mentioning companies, or sharing photos with an accidental logo in the background. Sites like Pinterest would never exist.

The point being, when you put “private entity” and “intellectual property” under the definition of Cyber Threat, you are setting a very dangerous precedent. One that opens the door for massive abuse. Now add to the fact that they can collect your private information secretly and then share it- all under this Cyber Threat umbrella- and you’ll never even know it is happening.

My friend, JRingo says:

“Most basically, this bill, as it reads in current format, allows for the suspension of all rights regarding the 4th amendment in terms of your online presence. As well, the bill removes all methods of legal recourse for the citizen if rights are found to be violated. While the motivation at present time may be pure (which I doubt knowing the history of military-industrial-security complex in this nation and their effect on legislation), the broad and ambiguous nature of the language presented in the bill leaves great room for interpretation further down the road.

Our rights to privacy are already at an all-time low, and this bill allows for a greater subjugation of one of the bedrock, fundamental rights afforded to us by the Constitution. While it may appear inconsequential now, the future could be quite bleak if we continue down this path.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Unlike it’s older sister, SOPA, the online corporations have not been as opposed to CISPA. This is because they are not being held liable for sharing your personal information to the government and 3rd parties. That means we, as citizens, have a LOT more work to do.

Please, take a moment and read up on this issue. Inform yourself about what you stand to lose. I have included a list of links at the bottom of the page. This issue should be particularly important to my fellow bloggers out there reading this on the WordPress and Blogger blogs. It directly affects you.

Then, after you feel comfortably aware, WRITE YOUR SENATORS and spread the word. If you’re not sure who your senators are, or how to contact them, then you can go HERE. They need to know that we will not stand idly by while they dismantle the 4th amendment in regards to the internet.

There is also an internet blackout scheduled for 4/22/13 to make our protest really visible. I encourage anybody reading this to participate! Change your avatars on FaceBook and Twitter. Put a post up on your blogs with the NO CISPA logo and get more people aware of this bill. Write a post about CISPA yourself. Or, if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, I am encouraging anybody who reads this to link back to this post, tweet it, share it any way you can.

This is not a liberal vs. conservative issue. This is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. This affects everyone. Sign the petition. Write your Senators.

Resources:

For a copy of the bill in its entirety: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/113-h624/text

How CISPA Would Affect You (faq)

CISPA is Back: FAQ on What it is and Why it’s Still Dangerous

CISPA passes U.S. House: Death of the Fourth Amendment?

The CISPA Government Access Loophole

CISPA is Back

An America Without Privacy

Why CISPA is the Worst and How You Can Help Stop It

CISPA Supporters List: 800+ Companies That Could Help Uncle Sam Snag Your Data

Let them know you vote! Stop CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act)

cispatakeaction

Females and Fair Sex

I think I’ve mentioned a time or two that I’m really into politics. I’ve tried to refrain from allowing this blog to become a political soapbox and, for the most part, I think I’ve succeeded.

That being said, last week, I had a friend post something on their Facebook that completely caught me off guard and was deeply offensive and I’m feeling the need to vent a bit and share my thoughts about it.

Now, I’m no stranger to debate. I have a whole slew of extended family that are super religious and conservative. I think it’s important to be able to conduct honest discourse and try to find the commonalities and compromise on issues wherever possible.

I knew this person from way back during my raver days, between the ages of 22-26 or so, and it’s been quite a long time since I’ve really had a chance to talk to him or hang out. Apparently, he’s made quite a lot of changes since those party days.

He got married, has had two young daughters and became very religious. All well and good, I say. He seems happy and content with where his life is and I’m glad for him.
However, this is what he posted the other day:

He captioned this with the comment, “I guess asking women to keep their legs together is just asking too much nowadays.

Um, WHAT?!?

It’s amazing how much I’m flabbergasted that someone I know could actually produce this kind of tripe for thought. It’s utterly astounding to me how people can STILL fucking think like this in this day and age.

Let’s break down all the reasons why this pisses me off, shall we?

First of all, setting aside the fact there is absolutely nothing wrong with women having sex, why is he only pinging on women here? WOMEN have to keep their legs together? Did he miss the biology lesson where it was explained that sex takes (at least) TWO people?

Why should we be mentioning women’s need to keep their legs closed without ALSO mentioning that men should be keeping their dicks in their pants?

Secondly, if you actually look at that infograph, it not only mentions free birth control, but it also says annual checkups and wellness visits (such as pap smears) will be paid for. Mind you, this is a man with two young daughters. Even if they NEVER have sex, they are still going to have all the same femal reproductive organs such as ovaries, fallopian tubes and cervices.

Why on earth would he want them to be discriminated against by the health insurers, and made to pay more, simply because of their gender? They’re still going to need annual visits and pap smears, and preventative care.

If his daughters had crooked teeth, he’d want them to get braces, right? How is this any different? As a parent, he should want ALL of his daughter’s health and well-being to be taken care of.

Besides that, they are probably not going to grow up to become nuns. So, even if he teaches them abstinence until marriage (and assuming they actually follow that philosophy,) they will eventually have sex. I’m assuming he would like to have grandbabies one day. If so, then his daughters receiving benefits as new moms would also be a good thing.

When I brought up these points in my comments to him, he came back with the response, “ladies should be ladies,” and that he was, “going to raise his daughters right and make sure they know to be ladies and not sluts on stripper poles or in rapper videos.”

Yes, that’s actually a quote.

I told him he was taking two very different extremes and there were plenty of degrees in the middle. That women didn’t have to be virgins to be a lady. Sure, as a female I believe in being confident, having high standards, and self-control. However, just because a woman chooses to have sex, doesn’t automatically make her a slut, either.

Why does he (and so many others) have this double standard when it comes to having sex? I asked him whether or not he was a virgin when HE got married. Not that I actually wanted him to answer that kind of personal question on a public forum such as Facebook, but that he should take that factor into account when he considers his perspective.

And, again, why is responsibility of sex placed all at the woman’s feet here? Where is the expectation that men should also have an ability to practice self-control? This kind of gender biased perspective of sexuality is the exact same reason women in Saudi Arabia have to wear burqas.

His response was that, “he wasn’t going to take it that far.” Sure, ok, HE may not take it that far, but who’s to say someone else wouldn’t? In fact, there are MANY men who HAVE taken it that far.

Believe it or not, there are whole countries that say men can’t control their sexual urges and baser instincts and shouldn’t be held responsible for themselves if they see a woman’s hair, face, or figure. They claim it is up to women not to give too much temptation for men, and that they should be covered to help protect their mens’ morality.

Well, I call bullshit on that.

This gender biased sense of sexuality is also exactly the kind of thinking that enables rape culture. Think about it. How many classes or informational meetings have you heard about for women that talk about how they can help prevent the risk of rape or assault?

Every woman I’ve ever known has been told, don’t walk by yourself at night, don’t put yourself in bad positions, watch your drink when you go to a bar or a house party, etc, etc.

Every woman I know has been taught to watch who may be following them, to check the reflections in the shop windows when walking down a street, or to be on guard when on public transportation.

Every woman I know has been the subject of catcalls, honking, whistling, jeering and leering. Street harassment is so prevalent that there’s actually a website called, ihollaback, with testimonials from women around the world about it.

Yeah, it sucks and isn’t right but, it’s a reality that pretty much any woman around the world can relate to.

Think about how many times you’ve heard about classes or informational meetings for men talking about what NOT to do. Sure, a good mom will teach her son to walk a girl to her car, or make sure she’s in the house after dropping her off from a date but the general social discourse just isn’t there.

In fact, our society has a long habit of objectifying women and their sexuality. There was a recent article even written about the differences in the type of photography we saw covering women Olympians that discussed it.

For most societies, sexual responsibility is on the woman to not put herself in a position where a man would be able to assualt or rape her. Furthermore, when things like that happen, then the first questions to inevitably arise are, “Well, what was she wearing? Had she been drinking? Who was she with? What was she doing?”

It doesn’t matter what she was wearing, she didn’t deserved to be assaulted! It doesn’t matter if she’d had a few drinks, she didn’t deserve to be raped! Too bad, our initial questions are very rarely directed towards the men and their lack of control and sense of humanity.

I’m not sure, dear readers, if you may think I’ve digressed. Perhaps, you think I’m hyperbolizing or blowing this one facebook comment or post out of proportion. I’m certainly not insinuating that my friend would EVER do anything such as assault or rape someone.

However, comments like these, mindsets like these, gender biased viewpoints on sexuality and creating an atmosphere that slut shames women who choose to be sexually active, all contribute to a society that enables this kind of behavior.

It’s bad enough that we’ve seen a slew of new legislation diminishing womens’ rights to get an abortion, get honest doctor’s reports, being forced to have vaginal probes on unnecessary procedures (aka: state sponsored rape), penalties for using birth control as contraception by their health insurers, or women being required to tell their employers why they’re on birth control. We are at a point in this country where there has been a systematic war being waged on women’s sexuality and- dare I say- equality.

Comments and attitudes like these are especially relevant considering the recent announcement that Paul Ryan will be Mitt Romney’s running mate. This is the same Paul Ryan that would ban common forms of birth control, end funding for Planned Parenthood, end a woman’s right to choose (even in cases of rape and incest,) and even voted AGAINST the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Which, incidentally, doesn’t have anything to do with women and sexuality, but simply says a woman doing the same work should get paid the same as a man.)

Check out this video clip talking about some of the fertility issues in this election cycle. It’s a bit older and was during the Republican primary, so you’ll hear a few references to Newt Gingrich, however a lot of the points are going to be on the ballot this November. The more relevant points start at 1:01. The tl;dr version starts at 7:20.

My friend can be conservative and choose to raise his daughters to wait to become sexually active until getting married. Good luck to him. I hope that works out for them. However, that still doesn’t mean all women should have to pay higher health insurance premiums for basic health services.

Women and men everywhere need to start standing up and engaging in conversations that push back against these unfair, discriminatory views on women’s sexuality. Even when it’s on Facebook. Especially if it’s with a friend. I truly believe these interactions have the power to help shape our national discourse and have consequences.

As for my friend, he ended up taking down his post. I’m not sure if I managed to sway his opinion or not, but at least I can say I didn’t stand idly by while he tried to deem what was acceptable behavior from me and all women.

Facebook Fallout

Man, I had a really shitty day yesterday. The kind of day that makes you just want to come home, take a shower, climb into your pj’s and curl up on the couch under a blanket with a really big glass of wine. The kind of day that causes you to want to call sick into work…forever.

But, before I tell you about my day, first I need to tell you what I do. I’m a stockbroker for an online, discount brokerage firm. I am not the type of person you probably think of when you envision a stockbroker.

This is definitely not what I look like.

The image I have of a stockbroker is a quick, curt, cosmopolitan man in a nicely cut, pinstriped suit and shiny, hard-soled shoes. Maybe a little slick to his hair; maybe a little slick to his smile.

I, on the other hand, am a mid-thirties, petite, smiling, friendly, woman, who looks young enough to still get carded at bars. I’m emotional (which can be both a good and bad thing) and also extremely empathetic. I have been described as “bubbly” and “touchy feely.”

Not exactly what you’d think of as a comfortable fit in roles.

To be honest, I would have never guessed that I’d be working in the job that I’m in right now. When I was younger I went through phases of thinking I’d be a writer, or an actress, or an English teacher.

That’s because I’ve always loved to read and write. I’m a social butterfly and have a flair for the dramatic. I was never particularly good at math or economics and am not detail oriented or clinical enough to be in finance.

At this point, you may be wondering how the hell I got where I am today and all I can say it was part opportunity and part happenstance.

Originally, I was hired on to be the office assistant. Basically, I worked the phone and front desk and was the “face” of the branch. Which, actually was a pretty good fit for my personality, if not exactly challenging.

However, as I was working there, I had the chance to become sponsored and get my Series 7 and 63 broker’s licenses. It was a good promotion with a good pay raise. I figured I might as well make more money, since I was working in the office anyway.

Plus, I thought it would be good for me to know about this stuff. Even if I didn’t keep working at this company for long, I could take the knowledge with me. It seemed like a good idea to help myself plan for retirement.

Don’t get me wrong, there are parts of my job that are satisfying. Investing seems a bit out of reach to most people, I think. There’s an illusion that it’s something “other” people do. People with more money or more expertise. That it’s for the big wigs, not the blue collar mom and dad living at the end of the suburban cul-de-sac.

Well, the company I work for is perfect for those types of people. Our accounts don’t have fees, our commissions are low, we have local branches and education seminars. It’s exciting for them and it makes me happy to know that I’m helping to demystify a part of our society.

Our clients can learn how to make investment decisions for themselves. They can place trades and watch their portfolio grow. More importantly, they don’t have to worry whether their stockbroker or adviser is really looking out for their best interests. They are the ones making the decisions, and nobody else in the world is going to be more motivated to succeed at making them money than themselves. Our customers get the chance to be empowered.

Which, is probably just as well since Republicans have been beating the drums to privatize pensions and social security for practically as long as I’ve been paying into it and they may find they don’t have a choice about becoming self-investors. (But, that’s another gripe for another day.)

So, yes, I get fulfillment and enjoyment out of the “teaching” aspect of my job.

Another key element of my job is that I don’t advise or consult…at all. There is no way that I’d be able to work as an investment advisor. If I made the wrong trade with some sixty year old lady’s entire life savings…I’d never forgive myself.

Unfortunately, this also means I’m not allowed to say anything if I think you’re making a bad decision. I can explain a market concept or term, but I can’t tell you whether I think a stock will go up or down.

I realize I don’t have have the stomach for the big game on Wall Street. Even though it’s less money and there’s very little respect for the “low man on the totem pole” in this industry, I’m perfectly okay with where I am. For the most part, I’m happy about not advising clients on what to invest in.

And, then there are days like yesterday.

As many of you know, Facebook’s IPO came out on Friday. There was a lot of buzz and excitement and for weeks people were calling into the office asking about it.

First off, I should probably provide a crash course explanation about how the markets work.

What is an IPO? IPO stands for initial public offering. Basically, it’s the process in which a private company becomes a public company where people can buy and sell shares and invest in it. It’s a means for the company to raise cash; usually in the hopes that they will be able to take that additional capital and grow their company.

When a company is going to go public, they hire an investment firm that can help them walk through the regulatory process and make the transition from private to public go smoothly. That main company is called an underwriter.

The underwriter takes on the risk of setting a base price and vouching for the success of the open. In order to mitigate that risk, an underwriter will typically recruit other company’s to vouch for an allotment of the shares and help get them sold. They are called the underwriting syndicate.

(I know this is a bit dry, but bear with me.)

Once all the shares have been divvied out amongst the syndicate, an initial price is set to sell to these institutional investors. For Facebook, the price was set at $38. Mind you, $38 dollars is NOT the guaranteed price that the stock is going to open up at at the primary market. It is the price that the syndicated institutional investors pay.

So, Facebook was slated to open up on Friday at 11am. Most of the retail investors (read: mom and pop) have been sitting on their couch, watching CNBC and have seen this price of $38 bandied about in segment after segment all day on Thursday. They think they’d like to own a piece of that fancy social network and $38 sounds pretty reasonable considering how big “they” say it’s going to go.

The morning of the IPO, retail investors put their orders into the system. Now, with IPO’s there’s no way to know where it’s going to open up at, so we make them place limit orders where they specify the price they’re willing to pay for a share. The order will only go through if it reaches the price they’ve specified or better.

A lot of the orders, I noticed, were placed at $40 or $42 dollars. Some limit prices were as high as $45, some as low as $38. However, for the most part, people were giving $2-4 wiggle room.

Nasdaq, which is the market Facebook was set to start trading on, experienced technical difficulties on Friday morning. They were having a hard time accounting for the HUGE influx of orders that are getting put into the system. In essence, there was a mad dash for the entrance and they had to get everybody standing in orderly lines before they could let people enter. (Remember 82 million in 30 seconds…)

They were especially having a hard time accounting for all the orders that were getting changed and cancelled last minute. So, they delayed their open to 11:30am and started the stock at a price of $42. I had six clients sitting in the lobby for half an hour on Friday morning waiting to watch the stock open up. All the while, people are calling in trying to place last minute orders.

When it finally did start trading, the system crashed, and none of the trade confirmations got reported. It looked like the orders were all hanging in limbo in the system. There was an even greater influx of calls as people tried to figure out if they had bought their stock, or not.

Now, here is the kicker. The trades themselves are timestamped and in the system, so if they are a due an execution, it is possible for them to have filled the order (aka: bought the stock) but not get reported.

That’s very important to understand. These people had orders in the system that got executed, but there was no way for them to know whether or not they actually bought their shares because Nasdaq had delayed execution reports and were not sending out trade confirmations.

Unfortunately, many of our online investors didn’t try to call in and were sitting in their living room with no idea this was happening (mainly because it’s SUPER rare and nobody could have predicted it.) So, then investors started to see the price of Facebook drop. They logged into their account and cancelled the order that was showing as pending (even though it technically could have executed.)

I’m sure they were thinking, “Phew! I dodged a bullet on that one! Now that the stock has dropped three dollars, I’m really glad my order didn’t go through.” And, to make matters worse, Nasdaq didn’t get their act together by the end of Friday’s trading day, so they went to bed, if not happy, then content.

Nasdaq was STILL working out the kinks in their system and trying to match trades to the time and sales tape all day Monday. Everybody knew there was a problem and that Nasdaq messed up, but nobody really knew to what degree at that point. All day, CNBC mentioned there were reports from multiple brokerage firms that there were still confirmations being worked out in the system and trades had not been reported.

Then, Tuesday comes around. Tuesday at 3:30pm to be more accurate. Now, all of a sudden, Nasdaq starts sending out delayed order executions to the various brokerage houses. Trade confirmations on all of those orders that people had gone to bed on Friday thinking they had cancelled.

So, I get a list at 3:30pm…TWO and a HALF DAYS after the original trades were placed into the system…and I have to call all of these poor saps and tell them. My conversatons basically go like this:

“I’m sorry to inform you, sir, but your order to buy those 4000 shares at $42 was, in fact, executed. I realize that you thought you cancelled your order, but unfortunately the market has come back saying you are due the fill. No sir, it’s not possible to “just forget it.” I understand you no longer want those shares. No sir, it’s not my fault. This is an issue with Nasdaq. Yes sir. Technically all trades take three business days to fully settle, so they are allowed up until tomorrow to report trade confirmations. Well, unfortunately sir, if there is a debit in your account we will have to ask that you either deposit more money or we’ll have to find a way to make up the deficit. Yes, sir, that could include selling any stock you may have in your account as equity. I’m very sorry, sir. I understand why you’re angry, sir. I would be very frustrated, too, sir…”

Imagine how much worse it was if that same guy who thought his order had been cancelled, then decided that, “Hey, I still want to own shares of Facebook. Now that it’s trading at $34 on Monday, I think I’ll go ahead and buy.” Because, that trade is ALSO valid. So, now he’s stuck in the position of having two trades go through and owning twice the number of shares and spending twice (or more) of the cost than he actually wanted.

Then you have the customer that said, “Well, if I had known I owned the stock, I would have sold it before it dropped so low, or at the very least put a stop order in.” But, of course, they couldn’t have known they owned the stock, and there was no way for them to put a sell order on shares that technically weren’t getting reported and registered into their accounts. These people had NO choice but to ride the stock down until they received confirmation of their order Tuesday afternoon (or possibly even as late as Wednesday.)

Of course our clients are irate! They think it’s a scam. They feel like the Wall Street has, once again, fucked Main Street over. They never had a chance at that $38 initial price. They had to wait and queue up for the stock to start trading on the primary market, and then that market failed.

I think this system sucks and I don’t blame them for thinking it sucks, too. However, what really bothers me is that I’m the messenger. I’m the one that is their representative for this system that I don’t like either. I feel like the worst kind of hypocrite and charlatan and I came home hating myself for it.

I need a new job.

Disclaimer (because I have to): Please don’t take any of this as advice or consulting. I’m an anonymous blogger for a reason. This post should not be taken as legal commentary or as an official brokerage company stance in any way, shape or form. Thank you.

FB: Facebook and Family Bigots

Disclaimer: This post takes the long way around to making a point, and may be considered meandering!

One thing that people should know about me is that I’m interested in politics and very liberal. Not that I actually want to BE in politics, my past was way too liberal for that and I’m pretty sure there’s too much photographic evidence that can be held against me. However, I am interested in following politics, keeping myself reasonably informed about legislation that is being passed and what kind of impacts it would make on our future.

This interest is a product of my upbringing. From the ages of 6 to 18, my dad would require me, my sister and brother to watch an hour and a half of news every night- two national and one local broadcast. At the end of that, we had to stand up and give an oral report on one of the news stories, making sure to answer the five key questions: who, what, where, when, why and how. I was expected to have three different articles in mind that I could report on because I was the oldest and my brother and sister got first crack at it. We weren’t allowed to repeat the stories another had chosen.

I have very distinct memories of watching the Berlin Wall come down on my television, and seeing Oliver North testify on the Iran-Contra scandal, as well as the images of students marching in Tienanmen Square. Most people my age remember those events primarily from their history books, but every night, I watched them unfold and reported on them in my living room.

I admit, there were a couple of years after leaving the house that I rebelled against the urge to watch the news every night. I would go weeks without catching any more than snippets of current events. However, with the invention and convenience of the internet, I found my way back to the fold. My news gathering has taken on a different form with the internet (as I expect most peoples’ have) but I’m once again paying attention to the events around me.

Last week, North Carolina passed Amendment 1. Amendment 1 does not ban gay marriage, they already had that on the books. This goes a step further and limits the types of domestic unions recognized by the state and considered valid.

Meaning, if you were homosexual and got married where it is legal- say, Massachusetts or New York- and then move to North Carolina, that union would not be considered legitimate. This could have serious impact on whether an employer could deny health insurance coverage to your spouse, or whether you’d be allowed to visit them in the hospital, not to mention legalities regarding child custody rights.

To be perfectly clear, I’m against this amendment and was saddened to hear another state in the Union choosing to legalize and reinforce bigotry. I know that there has been a lot of great headway recently in LGBT rights, but Amendment 1 served as a reminder that we have a LONG way to go. Which, is sad and unfortunate…and not altogether unexpected.

Most people who know me would probably say that I’m too idealistic and optimistic to think that our justice and legal system still has a chance at working. They probably think all my letters to Congress and political postings on Facebook are a waste of time and effort and that for the most part, I shouldn’t get my hopes up too high.

I can appreciate their perspective, I have a pretty healthy dose of cynicism towards our country’s politics and the dialogue surrounding them, too. However, there’s just something in me that can’t shut up about it. I keep thinking, if just one more person could get engaged and say something to their representatives, they could make a difference. At the very least, it would let our Congress people know that we are watching them and paying attention and hoping they vote in good conscious.

So, I pass along links and post pictures and thoughts about stuff that’s going on to my Facebook wall. Usually, I keep it limited to a few topics that specifically pertain to my group of friends; such as stopping SOPA, supporting Planned Parenthood or asserting my support for equal rights for LGBT.

Since most of my friends tend to be socially aware, it’s created a lot of great conversations and I’ve learned a lot from what they’ve posted as well. It’s nice being able to enter into healthy dialogue, especially if they don’t completely agree, or if they have something to add that I haven’t thought of before.

The problem is that I have a whole contingent of family that is SUPER conservative, and one aunt, in particular, that feels the need to come to my page and make absolutely hateful, prejudice remarks. I’ve tried to engage her in constructive conversation. I’ve tried to keep an open mind and figure out where she’s coming from and respect her perspective, but it never seems to go anywhere with her.

It doesn’t help that she has the barest grasp on how to write in the English language. She absolutely murders grammar and spelling, and sentence structure is a foreign concept to her. So, I’m not altogether sure I understand what she’s trying to say half the time and try to give her the benefit of the doubt or ask her to clarify what she means.

I think the first comment she left on my page was back in February of 2011. I had made a post saying I “stood” with Planned Parenthood. It was during the time Republicans were making a big push to shut off all funding for PP by cutting Title X. I had felt compelled to write a letter to my congressmen pleading with them not to vote for the bill and posted what I had written as a note on Facebook.

My aunt comes back with the comment, “and kill more black children than anything.” Ok, what? I think what she was trying to say was that Planned Parenthood killed more black children than anything, which is completely unfounded. It also had nothing to do with the point I was making, which was that Planned Parenthood helped me through the years when I didn’t have insurance. It is also vaguely racist to boot.

I made a post thanking vets for their service on Veterans’ Day and she responded, “vets can’t eat thank yous” and some birther shit about Obama. Most recently, she’s made a comment about a picture that I posted saying I support gay marriage. She said, “A bird c an call his self a fish is dosn’t make it so.”

Many of my friends suggested just ignoring her. Actually, I do ignore the posts she puts up and refrain from making comments on some of the anti-Obama, Muslim/ birther baiting, and overly religious, anti-gay stuff. However, I don’t feel comfortable not responding to the posts she leaves on my wall because I’m afraid my silence could be misinterpreted as agreeance.

You may be asking why I don’t just delete or block her. I’ve struggled with that question for over a year now and I think it boils down to two things.

Firstly, no matter how far apart we are on the political spectrum, she’s still my family. I have warm memories of visiting her and my cousins during the summer. I still have a good relationship with my cousins and wouldn’t want to cause a rift or discomfort between us.

The other reason is a little less tangible. I think it’s possible (or should be, anyway) for two opposing views to have a reasonable, tactful conversation without resorting to personal attacks. We should be able to communicate, and if I “unfriend” her, it’s as if I’m giving up first.

Unfortunately, I’m closing the door and admitting defeat. Perhaps my disappointment is a matter of ego. I’d like to think I could change someone’s mind or make a difference in someone’s perspective. I try to be open to that kind of change, myself. (Although, I admit it can be a struggle.) Knowing how entrenched my aunt is, she’s probably a lost cause. Come to think of it, she probably feels the same way about me…since I am a sinning, cussing heathen and all.