Thursday, August 23, 2012

Spilling Ink: THE FIVE ANTI-HEROES

THE FIVE ANTI-HEROES
by Susan Mesler-Evans

There are several different types of heroes. The most well-known (and probably the most common) is the flawed, but still morally good and nice guy who we all want to see win in the end.  These are characters like Luke Skywalker or Fireheart. This hero has his problems and screws up, but he’s an overall good person. But some writers (in fact, most writers nowadays) make the morality in their stories more gray than black and white. Villains become more sympathetic and, in turn, heroes become more flawed. While they’re still on the side of good, they may not be all that nice. Thus, the hero becomes the anti-hero.

Common traits of the anti-hero include sleeping around, sarcasm, daddy issues, and a “GawD, I don’t care” attitude towards pretty much everything. According to my sources (TV Tropes and Google), there are five basic types of anti-heroes.  Characters can fit into more than one category and can evolve, changing from one type to another.

Type One

This type of anti-hero is almost a “true hero.” She is on the side of good, at least tries do the right thing most of the time.  For the most part, Type One heroes are moral people. However, there’s always something holding them back:  a fatal flaw, a dark and troubled past, even just a plain old fashioned grudge. This type of anti-hero is the most likely to get over it (whatever her it may be) and become a full-fledged hero by the end of the story.  This usually comes after learning a lesson or overcoming her past. Like most anti-heroes, Type Ones are prone to making sarcastic remarks, often out of exasperation or affection rather than outright meanness.

Examples: Percy Jackson from Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Amir from The Kite Runner, Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit

Type Two

Type Two is a lot like Type One in several ways. A Type Two anti-hero is on the side of good, and often tries to do the right thing, but he doesn’t really have the heroic attitude. Type Twos tend to be dragged along for the adventure, and usually have a very sour and cynical outlook on life and the world in general. These anti-heroes can be called Mr. Vice Guy--they’re good, heroic people for the most part, but they’ve got issues; such as extreme selfishness, being overly cynical, and having a bad attitude in general. Like Type Ones, Type Twos have a pretty good chance of overcoming their problems and becoming classic heroes.

Examples: Jayfeather from Warrior Cats, Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files, James Potter from Harry Potter

Type Three

This is the type of character who often utters the phrase, “I did what I had to do.” Nice is different than good, and these anti-heroes show that. A Type Three will gladly kill someone for the greater good, even if the proposed victim doesn’t really deserve it.  The Type Three does what it takes to get the job done, even if the job requires her to do some morally questionable things. Getting in the way of a Type Three doing her job isn’t a good idea. It’ll only end in tears (and severe burns, fractured bones, missing limbs, mortal peril, etc.). However, if another character does something needlessly cruel that does not help get the job done, you can expect the Type Three to call them out on it. (Usually.)

Examples: Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl from Artemis Fowl (though he can be Type Two on a good day), Hamlet from Hamlet

Type Four

The Type Four only looks heroic next to whoever he is fighting. He might exist in a dystopia or have an unusually crappy life that caused him to become jaded and cynical. He’ll probably be a bit bloodthirsty and thoroughly enjoy fighting bad guys and watching them suffer. However, he’ll still be on the side of good and is ultimately sympathetic, someone you want to root for in the end. Unlike the previous three anti-heroes, the Type Four will probably not become a “true hero.” If they do evolve, if they see the error of their ways and try to become better people, they might become Type Three anti-heroes. However, if their good qualities give out to their nastier ones, they’ll fall to Type Five.

Examples: Sirius Black from Harry Potter, Severus Snape from Harry Potter, Gale Hawthorne from The Hunger Games

Type Five

If you read about this kind of anti-hero, you’ll probably find yourself thinking, “Wait... I’m supposed to be rooting for this guy?” Although they’re technically on the side of good, these people are not nice at all, and will probably do some things that aren’t very befitting of a hero (i.e.-- cold-blooded murder for no reason). Sometimes, the only thing that makes A Type Five a “hero” is the fact that they’re the main character, which makes them a villain protagonist. If it’s a story where two villains are going at it, the Type Five anti-hero will probably be the (slightly) less evil of the two. This type of anti-hero would shoot your puppy just to watch you cry, but if someone shot your daughter, they’d go after them for you.

Examples: Atremis Fowl from Artemis Fowl (on a really bad day), Belkar Bitterleaf from The Order of the Stick, Garfield from Garfield

So there you have it. Heroes don’t have to be pure white. Both heroes and villains come in various shades of gray.  They are a lot like real people, often more like real people than the “classic hero.”

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Erosion of our Civil Liberties: Sermon 8/9/12, UUtopia and 8/12/12, UU Fellowship in Cocoa, FL

 The Erosion of our Civil Liberties: Sermon 8/9/12, UUtopia and 8/12/12, UU Fellowship in Cocoa, FL

Freedom
by Rabindranath Tagore

Freedom from fear is the freedom
I claim for you my motherland!
Freedom from the burden of the ages, bending your head,
breaking your back, blinding your eyes to the beckoning
call of the future;
Freedom from the shackles of slumber wherewith
you fasten yourself in night's stillness,
mistrusting the star that speaks of truth's adventurous paths;
freedom from the anarchy of destiny
whole sails are weakly yielded to the blind uncertain winds,
and the helm to a hand ever rigid and cold as death.
Freedom from the insult of dwelling in a puppet's world,
where movements are started through brainless wires,
repeated through mindless habits,
where figures wait with patience and obedience for the
master of show,
to be stirred into a mimicry of life.




**The Sermon**


At the risk of seeming paranoid, I want to start this sermon by saying that I believe our civil liberties are at risk.  Not just *some* people’s civil liberties but all of ours and not just *some* civil liberties, but all of them.  I also want to say up front that although politics may be the cause of the shrinking and near elimination of some of our rights and although politics may be the only way to reclaim our naturally and constitutionally given rights, this sermon is not about politics.  I want to talk about why we, as a people, as US citizens in particular, are allowing our rights to be limited.  But, first, let me prove my premise, that our civil liberties are at risk.

The following incomprehensive ist of anecdotal and actual proofs that our freedoms are being curtailed is in no particular order.  

First example.  At a public school in Delhi, Louisiana,  a teenage girl can be asked to submit to a pregnancy test.  If she refuses the test, she can be expelled.  If she submits to it and is proven pregnant, she can be expelled.  If she submits to the test and is proven not to be pregnant, she can still be expelled for whatever behavior led school officials to suspect she might be pregnant in the first place.  This school’s policy has been challenged in the courts and the courts have said it is the school’s right to “preserve a wholesome environment” in which to educate students.

This is not all that surprising in a state which is still under Napoleonic law several hundred years after the French themselves abandoned the code.  Now let’s look at some examples from states with modern constitutions.  

In 13 states, sodomy is not just illegal but a jailable offense.  In nine of those, this is true for all couples regardless of the genders of the consenting partners.  In the other four, sodomy is only illegal if you happen to be gay.  Interestingly, I could not find a single state that explicitly bans sex between two women, though there are places where lesbians have been prosecuted under laws against “lewd and lascivious behavior” and under statutes that refer to “crimes against nature.”  

It’s not just our sexual rights being denied though.  Way back in 1975, my friend Helen’s father bought a fancy house in a fancy neighborhood in Tampa.  Said fancy house had no garage, so my friend’s Dad built a carport.   He was quickly ordered by the neighborhood commission to take it back down.  The commission decreed that new building projects were not allowed without their prior consent.  My friend’s father forced the neighborhood commission to take him to court.  He was sure that, as the owner of the property, it was his  right to build on his land as he saw fit, so long as his building did not do harm to neighbors or their property value, which his carport did not.  Ultimately, the judge in the case ruled against him and the carport was taken down.  

In 2010, eleven states passed laws limiting abortion rights.  In 2011, more than “19 states enacted a total of 162 new laws relating to reproductive health.”  Almost all limited women’s access to abortion.  Several attempted to limit the availability of birth control.
So far, 2012 has been a banner year for those who want to strip women of our reproductive rights.  Several states have recently introduced what those who seek to control women are calling “personhood bills.”  These bills make abortion illegal under all circumstances.  Such laws have recently passed in Oklahoma, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada and Missouri.
Others have introduced legislation that would submit women to vaginal ultrasound in order to get an abortion.  Many have pushed for women to be shown pictures of aborted fetuses and to be told of a number of harrowing possible outcomes from abortion.  At least Arizona and New Hampshire have fielded laws that require doctors to actually LIE to women who come to them seeking abortion.  In Arizona a law was passed that forbids docs from revealing to patients that a fetus is in any way unhealthy or deformed.    In New Hampshire, one bill on the table would actually require doctors to tell patients there is a link between abortion and cancer.

On a recent family trip to Washington DC, we discovered that the state of Maryland would not accept cash for tolls, opting instead to require residents who want to use toll roads to put electronic vehicle tracking and payment devices in their vehicles.  We went 2O miles out of our way to find another road headed where we needed to go.  That would not be a reasonable option for someone making a daily commute.  For a local resident who needed to use that particular toll road to get to work, there would be no option but to submit to having a transponder in her car, thus allowing tolls to be charged to her bank account and, just coincidentally, allowing her presence on the toll road to be known to anyone with the wherewithal to find that information.

At US airports, people are routinely searched and questioned by employees of the Transportation Security Administration.  If a passenger seems “suspicious” to a TSA agent, he or she can be held indefinitely for questioning.  (As a humorous and encouraging side note, I report that a Portland man was recently arrested for stripping naked in an airport TSA line in protest of intrusive TSA procedures.  At trial, the presiding  judge ruled that, in this case, wearing his  birthday suit was not indecent exposure at all, but free speech protected by the constitution.)  

As of May 2012, only six states offered gay citizens the same rights to marriage and civil partnerships that their non gay neighbors enjoy.  But it’s not just getting hitched that the state currently limits, there are surprising limits on divorce as well.  Did you know that more than half of these United States require divorcing adults to wait six months or more before being granted a divorce decree?  In a dozen states, there is still, in 2012, no no fault divorce and in some of those states issues accepted as legal grounds are so limited as to prevent couples from obtaining legal divorces.  It is not enough to say a couple is no longer compatible; In some states one party or the other has to accuse the other of having committed abuse, abandonment, or adultery.  

Our previous president oversaw the development and implementation  of The USA Patriot Act.  One of the most controversial aspects of the USA PATRIOT Act is in its title V, and relates to National Security Letters (NSLs). An NSL is a form of administrative subpoena used by the FBI, and reportedly by other U.S. government agencies including the CIA and the Department of Defense (DoD). It is a demand letter issued to a particular entity or organization to turn over various records and data pertaining to individuals. They require no probable cause or judicial oversight and also contain a gag order, preventing the recipient of the letter from disclosing that the letter was ever issued.  In other words, United Parcel Service  can be served with an NSL asking for  records of deliveries to any individual.  Not only is UPS obligated to hand over these records, they are prevented from telling the individual that they have done so.  


Recently our current president and secretary of state had to be told by the courts that it is not constitutional to jail  American citizens without due process of law.  That provision  was a part of the National Defense Authorization Act as it was passed by congress and signed into law by President Obama.  However, most of the provisions in NDAA, having not yet been challenged in federal court, still stand.

The part of the NDAA that allows authorities to detain indefinitely and question anyone suspected of terrorism also allows a US citizen to be classified as a foreign national if they are *suspected* of working with a foreign organization to  do harm to the United States or its citizens.  This is an obvious semantic loophole in the NDAA that makes it possible for US citizens to be detained without due process if suspected of ties to foreign terrorist organizations. This is included in section 1021 of the NDAA, which also states that the military is not “required to detain American citizens” suspected of ties to foreign terrorist organizations.  Let me say that again so I am sure you heard it right:  the NDAA clearly states that our military is not *required* to detain American citizens.   It does not however forbid the military from doing so if a citizen is suspected of ties to foreign terrorists.  It should also be noted that neither  the NDAA nor its predecessor, the Patriot Act, define terrorism.  That gives this president, or any future president, a lot of latitude to strip American citizens of their  rights to due process via some new Orwellian designation. He could start *disappearing* enemies of the state, or the party, or even his own personal enemies.  This disappearing of US citizens would be easy, given the gulag of detention camps built by Halliburton subsidiary KBR. (In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security awarded KBR a $385 million contract to build these camps for a possible influx of illegal immigrants, or to support the “rapid development of new programs,” whatever that means).


Recently, Houston Federal District Court Judge Stephen W. Smith wrote in an article for the Harvard Law and Policy Review that “under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, officials do not need to establish probable cause to obtain various kinds of phone and e-mail records if they are not seeking the content of the communications.”  In his article,  Judge Smith describes a “secret docket that dwarfs that of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which considers warrant applications in national security investigations.” Using data from 2006 and not a little extrapolation, Judge Smith estimated that there were about 30,000 sealed surveillance orders in federal courts that year, surpassing in a single year the entire output of the national security court since 1978.  In other words, any military or public official can demand that google release your email and google calling records to see who you’ve been talking to, so long as they don’t ask to see the content of the emails or listen to recordings of the calls.  They can ascertain that one has exchanged email with an Al Quaeda  member but not see specifically what was said.  

In recent months there has been a huge push for legislation requiring voters to show ID at the polls.  If these laws pass, a voter whose wallet has been stolen and who has not had time to replace all ID would be prevented from voting.  Even more devastatingly, this law would prevent citizens who cannot afford to pay for state ID or driver's’ license or take time off from work to go to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles from voting.  

Each of these examples points to the fact that our civil liberties are being eroded.  I am not going to suggest what we can do to make a course correction but leave that to each of you to figure out on your own.  I will say that I don't think course correction will be easy, if it is even possible.  I will not engage in party politics and tell you how to vote because I am not convinced it will ultimately matter.  I am also not going to say you should start building a bunker, stashing away bullets and growing your own food because we are about to see the world as we know it come to an end.  In spite of this long list of examples I just gave you, I am too much of an optimist to preach that the sky is falling and you better batten down the hatches.  In my humble opinion, a battened down life would not be a life worth living.  

Our founding fathers stated clearly that they were founding the United States of America with the goal of keeping all its citizens free.  In his famous speech before the Virginia convention of 1775, Patrick Henry said “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government."  Not long after, on July 2, 1776, George Washington said, "Let us … show the world that a free man, contending for his liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth."  

I am not entirely convinced the founders  were thinking of women or men of color as citizens when they signed the Declaration of Independence and, later, the Bill of Rights and Constitution, but mostly we *have* been free.  Not only have we been free ourselves, we have been willing to fight for the freedom of the citizens of other nations when their liberty was seriously threatened by their own leaders.  

So  how did we get here?  How did we, as a nation, get to the point where our basic rights are threatened?  There is really nothing more basic than the right to love, make love to, and marry who you choose, except possibly the right of righteous men and women to live confidently free.  Right now, in the USA, neither of those rights is guaranteed.  

I have some theories as to how we got where we are today.  I think that partly we got complacent.  We have been like fat and happy monks living off the generosity of our patrons and the fruits garnered by the religious who preceded us.  We got comfortable in our status as free men and women with enough resources to rule the world, at least significant portions of it, for a time.  I think we believed those seemingly endless resources would keep us safe from anyone or any country that thought to usurp our liberty.  Of course, it did not occur to us that the usurpation of liberty usually comes from within a nation, not from without.  

We fail to remember history, even relatively recent history, that might show us what might lead to the collapse of a free society.  It’s not just that we fail to see how Egypt after Cleopatra folded in on itself or how Rome crumbled not from foreign threats but
from inside its own walls; we also blind ourselves to similarities between the corporations that settled the American colonies for their own purposes in the 17th and 18th centuries and the corporations seeking to control US laborers and consumers today.    We fail to see parallels between recent events in our own *Vaterland* and events in the first three decades of 20th century Germany.

We are complacent and ignorant to history and that makes us easy to control.  We are fat and happy and dumb, so we are easy to scare and easy to keep in our place.  We are afraid of the enemies we have been convinced wait to stream across our borders to take our jobs and our  riches and our dreams.  We have been convinced that there is some *other* who wants to take what is ours and leave us bereft of all we hold dear.  Sometimes we are convinced that the *other* is Arab or Jew, Gay, Feminist, Republican, Democrat, or well educated; It really does not matter who the *other* is, the point is they are out there and they want to make us miserable.  

We are scared but we still have our wealth, more wealth than anyone else ever in history.  We think we will be okay, that we will be able to keep what we have, our homes, our fortunes, the American dream itself, if only we trust in our leaders, those scions of Franklin and Ford and Rockefeller.  We trust them because we do not know our history, or we choose to ignore it.  We trust them because it is easier to do what we are told than to think for ourselves and make choices that might make life harder than just keeping on keeping on.  

They tell us the enemy is coming to take what is ours and what they say is true.  What they fail to mention is that the threat is not communism or single mothers or Arab immigrants.  The threat is not even terrorism.  The real threat to The United States is that we will allow some of our own to become an American ruling class, that the rest of us will be the invisibles, the outcasts, the threats to security and democracy that must be kept in line else the nation perishes.  

And now I open the floor for your comments and discussion.  Paul, I leave it to you to tell us when it’s time to quit talking.