The USA is not a safe place to send kids

When I was 17, I spend a year as a student in rural Canada, which resulted in a lot of culture shock. But you’re told about that when you prepare for your trip, and also that the Canadian families are very likely going to be much more religious than what we were used to. The kids who went to the USA got similar speeches, and sometimes their experiences were similar to mine. Very often however, the experiences went like this instead:
Polish Exchange Student in US: My Half-Year of Hell With Christian Fundamentalists

For example, every Monday my host family would gather around the kitchen table to talk about sex. My host parents hadn’t had sex for the last 17 years because — so they told me — they were devoting their lives to God. They also wanted to know whether I drank alcohol. I admitted that I liked beer and wine. They told me I had the devil in my heart.

My host parents treated me like a five-year-old. They gave me lollipops. They woke me every Sunday morning at 6:15 a.m., saying ‘Michael, it’s time to go to church.’ I hated that sentence. When I didn’t want to go to church one morning, because I had hardly slept, they didn’t allow me to have any coffee.

One day I was talking to my host parents about my mother, who is separated from my father. They were appalled — my mother’s heart was just as possessed by the devil as mine, they exclaimed. God wanted her to stay with her husband, they said.

or like this: Chinese Atheists Lured to Find Jesus at U.S. Christian Schools

When Randy Liang wanted to study in the U.S., his parents’ friends at a Christian group that provides medical and small business services in Shanxi Province recommended Ben Lippen. He enrolled in January, 2010, as a sophomore, largely unfamiliar with the Scriptures and the English language.

He “really hated” the school at first, he said. “I thought they were trying to force me to be Christian. I couldn’t understand what they’re talking about. I thought, ‘This is boring.’”

Liang adjusted as his English improved and he joined teams in four sports: football, wrestling, cross-country and track. After watching a creationist video in Bible class, he developed doubts about evolution. Now a senior, he prays with teammates before games, he said. He lives in a teammate’s home, and prays with the family for success on exams.

or like this: High School Exchange Students Housed With Murderers, Sexual Predators

One of the most shocking cases alleges that at least four exchange students suffered sexually abuse over the years by the same host father — even after the first student to stay with the host reported the incidents, NBC reported.

“He said ‘this is American culture,’ and I should get used to it,” Christopher Herbon of Germany told NBC News.

or this: Exchange students live American nightmare

Jarbola said a girl from Norway, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Anne, tried to alert officials that she and some of the students were in dire straits.

Anne told CNN she had school officials send an e-mail to Aspect in October explaining how bad things were and including photographs of the inside of the home where she was placed. The home was later condemned by the city.

Anne’s high school principal took her in, but other students weren’t as lucky and spent nearly the entire school year in unsafe homes, until Children and Youth Services was tipped off about a month before school ended, Jarbola said.

Jarbola, who said Anne’s e-mail is now evidence in the criminal investigation, told CNN that when welfare officials interviewed the students, one was so hungry he wept when they gave him pizza during questioning. In all, five of the students were removed from homes where they’d been placed by Aspect.

and even though the last article is peppered with references to how very seriously the State Department is taking the cases, the end result of that taking it seriously was that the State Department requires prospective host-parents to photograph their houses and provide “outside” references, and not much else.

And exchange programs are not the only way in which bringing foreign kids to the USA can end up extremely dangerous. For one, the same reasoning that leads Fundies and Fundie schools to try to get foreign students to come to the US is also fueling the adoption-craze among fundie Christians. In the past, there have been reports of abuse related to the Fundie “To Train Up A Child” abuse manual, or the “adoptions” of Haitian “orphans” post-earthquake which turned out to be kidnappings, and other such reports. Now, there is another report about “re-homing” children, which is basically about treating international adoptees like pets, to be dumped when they become inconvenient, often onto the first person who volunteers to take them in (which, unsurprisingly, sometimes turn out to be child abusers of various kinds); and again we hear of the complete lack of oversight by US government.

It’s no wonder than that many countries are wary of sending minors to the USA. In the past, some exchange programs stopped offering exchanges to the USA; and many countries also block adoptions to the US, or insist on being able to track the well-being of these children themselves.

Advertisements

The missing piece to the stories of the Magdalene Laundries

The Report on the Magdalene Laundries is finally out, and people all over the internet are writing about it, and about the abuses that went on there.
The women and girls who were sent to Magdalene Laundries came there via the justice system, via referrals from Industrial and Reformatory Schools, via referrals from psychiatric hospitals and social services, and via referrals from “homes for unwed mothers”. These were socially marginalized women, and they were given to these nuns under the pretext of reformation and provision of social services for “fallen women”. Four orders running the Laundries were identified in the report: Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge; Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy; Religious Sisters of Charity; and Sisters of the Good Shepherd. The Magdalene Laundries were finally closed in 1996.

Now here’s the part I’ve not seen mentioned nearly enough during this round of reporting/writing on this topic, both in the news-media articles and in various blogs:
The orders who run the laundries to “help” “fallen women”* with the support of the State are still running organizations to “help” “fallen women” with the support of the State!

According to an Irish Times article, two of the orders who ran Magdalene Laundries are now running an organization called Ruhama which purports to help women “affected by” sex work. From Ruhama’s website:

Ruhama was founded as a joint initiative of the Good Shepherd Sisters and Our Lady of Charity Sisters, both of which had a long history of involvement with marginalised women, including those involved in prostitution.

Yeah. Both these orders definitely have a “long history of involvement with marginalised women”. They run Magdalene Laundries in which they imprisoned and abused those women! Why would anyone trust them not to do it again? Especially given that they have no respect whatsoever for the agency and realities of the sex workers they’re claiming to help**?

Reporting about Magdalene Laundries is important; but mentioning their likely successor is, too.
– – – – – – – – – –
*I apologize for the scarequote infestation, but there’s really no other way to talk about these ridiculous and deceitful terms.
**Ruhama is behind a push to institute the Swedish Model in Ireland, a model that is pretty much uniformly rejected by sex workers themselves as harmful.

Then, prohibition of alcohol; now, prohibition of the veil.

I was thinking recently about what it was that could be moving Muslim feminists (and feminists from Muslim backgrounds) to support a ban on wearing the veil. It makes little sense to me, since doing so won’t actually change much, other than forcing those women who actually wear that thing voluntarily to basically run around more exposed than they’re comfortable with.

And then I started reading a bit about the Temperance Movement in the 19th century. It was pretty strong at first, mostly made up of various Christian ministers, but it usually faded out eventually. Except in the States, where it actually led to the 18th Amendment. A major role in this played the WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union). Many feminists and women’s rights advocates, for example Susan B. Anthony, were part of that temperance movement, because alcohol abuse led to women abuse in many cases.

Now I’m thinking that the two might be very much related. The temperance movement basically latched onto alcohol as the visible manifestation of many societal problems of the 19th century. Temperance advocates saw people drinking themselves into poverty, people committing crimes when drunk, men abusing their wives and children when drunk, etc., and decided that alcohol needed to go. However, the alcohol abuse was for the most part a symptom of other systemic problems, ones not nearly as easily identifiable or fixable, because they usually didn’t have single-point causes. To truly get what they wanted, the members of the Temperance Movement would have to lobby for a total overhaul of society as it existed at the time, with greatly improved working conditions, social welfare, laws protecting women from their own husbands, etc. And certainly, many of them did so; but Prohibition was a neater, easier defined, and evidently more easily achievable goal, maybe a sort of symbol of being able to achieve what they were fighting for.

It seems to me that this battle to ban the veil might come out of similar dynamics: it certainly is a very clear and visible symbol of what’s wrong with the strongly patriarchal Muslim culture, and just like alcohol wasn’t the cause of poverty and abuse, so the veil isn’t the cause of the suppression of women. But it’s a part of it, and making such a boldly visible step to make it go away might well be a symbol for the much more complex, difficult and long-term fights over actual, structural changes in Muslim society that will be necessary to end the horrible mistreatment of women.

And I’m afraid that another parallel is that it will be similarly useless. Banning symptoms doesn’t achieve anything at all, and merely drives it underground where it cannot be addressed at all, and where it may create even more problems.

But I can understand the need for visible, symbolic victories for the morale and motivation of those fighting the long battles. I’m still opposed to these bans (especially since feminism isn’t the only motivation for them: racism and xenophobia play a far more significant role in getting these bans passed!), but I think I’m starting to understand where this irrational desire for them may be coming from. I wish they’d find a better symbol of their fight, though…

Religious symbols

The discussion about banning “religious symbols” from public schools in France* made me wonder, how the fuck does one tell what is a religious symbol? Does government have to issue ginormous books with pictures of all possible religious clothing and symbolism, and all students have to go through a “religion detector” every morning, similar to the metal detectors in some American schools?

Probably not. So, how the hell does one tell what is or isn’t religious? And how does one avoid discrimination, when something worn by one person is a fashion statement, but worn by another is a religious statement**? I mean, “everybody knows” that a cross is Christian, a Yarmulke is Jewish and a full hijab is Muslim, but what about other symbols? Imagine for a second this sort of thing being introduced into American schools. Which of the following would qualify as a “religious symbol” and which wouldn’t***?

It seems to me that there’s a whole bunch of “religious symbolism” that would fly under the radar because it’s so rare, or because it’s close enough to mainstream culture. This sort of thing would be guaranteed to promote established privilege against the visibly “other”.

– – – – – – – –
*and, much closer to home: Niedersachsen’s new Integration-Minister Aygül Özkan has made comments about removing religious symbols, as well. If I understand her correctly though, she’s talking about classroom decorations and staff, not students; which is something slightly different.

**well, I possibly already have an answer to that, if the reports of several Muslim girls being sent home for wearing standard bandanas are true…

***And let’s hope none of the students end up with a Latino boyfriend named Jesus, either :-p

Dispatches from the Boonies

So I went to the coffeshop, and out of boredom started reading the Minot Daily out of the recycle bin. In them (I’m fairly certain there was more than one day in there), I found the following:

1)Half a page just of church ads; 30 total, all different. Most were different flavors of Lutheran, but there was some Baptists, an Assembly of God, and some other versions I’m not familiar with. Noticeably, the two Catholic Churches in town weren’t part of that ad-collection

2)An opinion by the editor of the paper about how “net neutrality” is a bad thing.

3)An opinion piece by Michelle Malkin, whinging about how Obama is politicizing the Census, and how evil it is of the leftists(!) to have Karl Rove(!!) try to use a reference to the Founding Fathers(!!!) to get people to comply with it.

4)A point counterpoint about the RCC drama, with Stephen Prothero on the one side, saying that if only the Church could apologize and promise not to do it again, all would be well. The other side went straight for the bible, pulling out some quote about persecution and harassment of a prophet.

I need to stop reading that stoopid paper. It’s not good for my mental health.