Waste Disposal: Where Ableism, Economic Injustice, and Environmental Injustice Meet Up

I have a bit of a Birth household confession to make: we have a growing amount of miscellaneous waste in my house. Among the products still lying about include a circa 2006 computer and its assorted parts, and light bulbs with mercury.

Fellow environmentalists are probably already judging me, and really my entire household, after my making this statement. But before you all judge me, please hear me out…

The problem my family faces, and the problem that many families face in New York and in other areas, is the relative lack of accessibility to places that handle certain types of waste.

For example, in my hometown of New York City, there are only five places (one for each borough) that handle waste such as latex paint, passenger car tires, and motor oil filters, among other things. To make matters worse, none of these so-called “Special Waste Drop-Off Sites” are centrally located, so you might have to dedicate an entire morning or afternoon to just dropping off your waste if you’re in the wrong part of New York City.

New York is not alone in having this problem. Seattle has only three such facilities in its entire city. Omaha, Nebraska has one option (a “Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility”) for two entire counties. And Fremont County, Wyoming has only a few e-waste disposal areas in a land mass close to the size of New Hampshire.

The lack of accessibility to places that handle various types of waste is a major problem. This is a problem of ableism, economic injustice, and environmental injustice.

This is an issue of ableism because these policies assume that people can travel to waste-disposal facilities, and in many cases travel by car. If you are homebound, wheelchair-bound, or unable to drive, the waste-disposal policies of many municipalities prevent many people from disposing of their toxic waste.

This is also an issue of economic injustice because the policy of minimizing the number of waste disposal sites assumes that people have the freedom in their work schedules to potentially spend a couple hours to dispose of their materials. In a world where an increasing number of people need to work multiple jobs in order to keep rooves over their heads and food on their tables, this is an unsound assumption, and an assumption which results in many people being unable to dispose of their waste because their work schedules don’t allow them to do that.

Finally, this is an issue of environmental injustice because these policies make it difficult to impossible for many families to do the environmentally friendly thing—to take materials to a place that can properly handle them. When a municipality forces someone to travel several miles to dispose of tires or batteries, that town, county, or city is making it extremely difficult for people to properly dispose of their materials. If a place like New York City truly cared about the environment, the municipality would make it as easy as possible, not as hard as possible, to dispose of these materials properly.

For all of my complaining about the ableism, economic injustice, and environmental injustice of how assorted waste often gets handled, I also think it’s worth acknowledging that there is a better way to handle this issue.

This better way can be found in San Francisco. In that city, most substances can be dealt with by calling for a free home pick-up. A few other materials (old and expired medicines and needles) have numerous drop-off locations throughout that city. In fact, residents are only forced to travel a distance if they have unlabeled or unknown toxic waste or other hazardous substances. While I don’t know how this type of program works in practice, San Francisco’s way of handling waste, for the most part, theoretically keeps homebound people from travelling when they’re not able to travel, keeps people with busy lives from having to take hours out of their lives to travel to a facility, and makes it easy for residents to do the environmentally just thing.

Hopefully, other municipalities will follow San Francisco’s lead in making it easy for residents to deal with assorted waste. Until such a time as this happens, many waste-disposal programs are ableist, economically unjust, and environmentally unjust.

IMAG0512
This is one of several pieces of e-waste that I have in my house. This ancient printer is one such piece of e-waste and is harder to get rid of than some readers might think.

 

Gender Inequality in Conversations

While I usually avoid American politics in my blog posts, there is simply no way of avoiding politics here because the 2016 presidential election made me aware of the topic I discuss in this post. Namely, after the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, several of my friends saw in Trump the same issue they see with many other males—manterrupting.

For those of us who aren’t familiar with the word I just mentioned, manterruption is a word used to describe how men tend to dominate conversations by frequently interrupting women. Manterruption is one of the many ways that some men have a tendency to dominate conversations and relationships, whether some of us realize that or not. Such domination, in turn, shows a lack of respect for the women who men interact with.

In the short period of time that I have been aware of this issue, I’ve often noticed several types of responses from fellow men who feel like they are being attacked when the topic of manterruption comes up:

  1. Claim that they don’t manterrupt.
  2. Claim that manterruption is a false concept.
  3. Use the whole manterruption topic as an excuse to bash feminism in one form or another.
  4. Use the manterruption topic to claim that people are being soft or “politically correct.”

While there are other types of negative responses to the topic of manterruption, what I mentioned here are just a few of the major types of responses that I usually notice.

If you have a hard time believing what I just said, all you need to do is look at the reviews for the “Woman Interrupted” app on Google Play and you will see all three types of responses to manterruption (few of the reviews address the quality of the app itself). If this blog post were to ever “go viral,” my guess is that readers would see for themselves all three types of negative responses, and few responses which call for self-evaluation to see whether you manterrupt (if you are a man like me, of course).

But for those of us who are tempted to respond to the issue in a negative way, I ask all of you to at least give me room for a response and a plea.

The response is that talk of manterruption is not false or feminism. It is a fact. For decades, scholars have written about how men often interrupt in conversations with women. If you have trouble believing me, you can message my blog’s page on Facebook or e-mail me at blindinjustice2017@gmail.com and I can provide you with some of the widely cited scholarly books and articles that discuss this topic.

The plea is to please at least make the effort to be conscious of your conversations, and spot where you have a tendency to interrupt or be interrupted. I make that plea partially because of my own personal experiences with manterruption—through being conscious of when I interrupt, I made the realization that most of my interruptions occurred when I talked with women. It was an embarrassing realization, but a realization that hopefully enables me to have the egalitarian friendships I so desperately want. I hope that others take me up on this plea.

If our society wants to end the continued lack of egalitarianism in our cross-gender relationships, we need to be aware of the inequalities that do exist (such as in conversation through manterrupting), and then deal with those inequalities. I hope that this post motivates at least a few of you to deal with issues like manterruption, and hopefully get closer to achieving egalitarian relationships with everyone.

Wait…a Blog Post on Friday?

“Brendan, aren’t your blog posts supposed to happen at noon on Tuesdays? And anyway…why isn’t this blog post about some form of injustice? Also, what is your news?”

Don’t worry, because I will have those questions answered by the end of the post.

The first piece of news is that, when I have to announce news related to the blog, I will announce that news at noon on a Friday through a blog post.

I don’t want to make posts about blog news at my typical post time of noon on Tuesdays. Why? Because I firmly believe that posts about blog news should never take the place of posts about various forms of injustice. As a result, if I ever have news on the blog, I will make a post at 12 Noon on a Friday. (And when I don’t have news to report, you won’t see a Friday blog post from me.)

I will announce the news through a blog post so that people who like my Facebook page, follow my Twitter page, and/or follow my blog on WordPress are all on the same page about blog developments. While I considered only posting blog news on Facebook and Twitter (and not through a blog post as well), I realized that this would leave WordPress followers and people who don’t follow me on any platforms out of the loop.

The second piece of news is that I am now including pages at the top of the blog for various forms of injustice.

I want this blog to be a resource for people who, like me, may be blind to and/or blindly commit a range of injustices. In order to become a better resource, I decided to include pages at the top of the blog for various forms of injustice that I have written about (LGBTQ+, ageism, etc.). If you click on one of those pages, you will see posts I’ve written in that category. For example, if you are curious about how you may be blind to or blindly commit racism, you can access my post on racial colorblindness by clicking the “racism” tab and clicking on the link to my article.

The final piece of news is that I will not have a blog post next Tuesday.

Next Tuesday is Independence Day, so I will not publish a post in observance of the holiday. My next blog post will be on Tuesday, July 11. I hope that everyone has a happy, healthy, and safe 4th of July!

The Forgotten Injustice of the American National Anthem

On Independence Day next Tuesday, many Americans will bring out American flags, talk with pride about the nation’s heritage, and proudly belch out the American national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

I was especially proud to sing our national anthem in the years after 9/11, when I was too young to understand the full meaning of the song, but also old enough to realize that the song was to many people a symbol of defiance towards terrorists who tried to destroy the nation’s identity. But these days, I have trouble singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at all, let alone singing it in public.

Before people call me unpatriotic, just as many called NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick unpatriotic for his refusal to stand during the American national anthem, please hear me out. I too am a believer in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” even if those ideals did not extend towards African Americans, Native Americans, women, immigrants, people in the LGBTQ+ community, and others for many decades after that phrase was first used. But the fact is that, if the United States of America wants to carry out a universal, inclusive, and just vision of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” our current national anthem is not a representation of such a vision.

In making this claim, I point to an oft-forgotten part of “The Star-Spangled Banner”—the third verse:

“And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

“No refuge could save the hireling and slave…from the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.”

These two lines from the third verse make it sound like the author, Francis Scott Key, was celebrating the death of African American slaves.

To add historical context to the verse, African American slaves who fought for the British were offered freedom in the War of 1812. Hence, the British served as a “refuge” for slaves, since they seemed to offer slaves what they wanted—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

However, slaves fighting for the British did not give Francis Scott Key what he wanted, which was the preservation of the United States of America. Once the British-allied slaves got killed, on the other hand, the United States stood a greater chance of having a preserved country.

Between the lyrics and the historical context of the lyrics, it certainly seems like this portion of the song celebrates the death of slaves trying to free themselves from slavery. Since it celebrates enslaved death instead of freedom and life, the American national anthem is not a song that celebrates an inclusive, universal, and just version of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Many of us forget about the injustice of the song (the third verse in particular) because we only sing the first verse. However, we should not let ourselves forget about any part of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” This song refused to extend the vision of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” towards a whole group of people (slaves, particularly slaves fighting for the British), and everyone who sings this song should be mindful of that fact.

Addressing “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”

If you are a Christian who has confronted LGBTQ+ issues, or if you aren’t Christian but are familiar with Christian language that is often used with the LGBTQ+ community, you have probably come across a particular phrase.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin.”

I used to be a major believer in this saying. I could never fathom abandoning someone, but at the same time I did not support actions (in homosexual actions) that practically every Christian influence in my life told me was wrong. So to me, “love the sinner, hate the sin” was a good middle ground.

I was not alone in thinking that “love the sinner, hate the sin” was a good approach. I know that because I hear this phrase used frequently in moderate to conservative Christian theology to describe how LGBTQ+ people should be treated. The phrase is used to describe how Christians should be loving to people regardless, but hate the sins that LGBTQ+ people are accused of having. In particular, Christians are often told to hate the so-called “homosexual lifestyle” or “gay lifestyle.”

Speaking as someone who used to be a believer in “love the sinner, hate the sin,” it is a phrase which seems to be disguised in love. After all, you are supposed to love the sinner. It is an especially appealing phrase because it allows you to love people in the LGBTQ+ community without making room for actions that you view as sinful, and it allows you to acknowledge what you view as sinful actions without falling into the stereotypes of conservative Christians holding picket signs which say that people who are LGBTQ+ will go to hell.

But now, I want not just fellow Christians, but all people, to see the phrase for what it is—it is a way of singling out people in the LGBTQ+ community in ways that other people don’t get singled out.

I make this claim because I have never (and when I say never, I really mean NEVER) heard “love the sinner, hate the sin” used in any Christian context outside of discussions about the LGBTQ+ community. I have never heard “love the sinner, hate the sin” when talking about the adultery, envy, anger, lying, or other wrongs that people around us commit (or that some of us commit ourselves). This is the case, even though the problems mentioned above are tied to the Ten Commandments and/or the Seven Deadly Sins (those seven sins are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth), and LGBTQ+ issues are generally not tied to either one.

Yet, I hear “love the sinner, hate the sin” all the time when some Christians talk about the LGBTQ+ community and the non-traditional relationships that one often sees within the LGBTQ+ community.

The fact that “love the sinner, hate the sin” is used against the LGBTQ+ community and not against anyone else is a sign that the phrase is mostly meant to single out the LGBTQ+ community. Otherwise, the phrase would not just be applied to LGBTQ+ issues, but also issues that violate the Ten Commandments and/or the Seven Deadly Sins, at the very least.

If you, the reader, are tempted to think that “love the sinner, hate the sin” is the way to view people in the LGBTQ+ community, and LGBTQ+ issues, I hope that you at least consider whether you are using that phrase for a variety of other issues. If you only use the phrase for LGBTQ+ issues, then you are singling out the LGBTQ+ community like I once did, whether you realize it or not.