AlterNet Readers' 10 Best Comments of the Week!

Here are this week's Top Ten comments, where AlterNet readers take their turn writing and offer moments to display their brilliance. Whether it is a one-liner that critiques the validity of an article or a longer, essay-like post that adds historical perspective to the topic at hand. This week, our commenters dealt a great deal with the role of women in U.S. society, whether it was regarding Mrs. Craig standing by her badly behaving husband, the gender politics of stand-up, or the role of men in abortion conversations. Our readers delved into the psyche of Thomas Friedman, the state of the U.S. government, and why we work so hard at our jobs. Here are the illuminating Top Ten (in no particular order, of course):

Talkville responds to the interplay between the interpersonal politics and social politics of male involvement in abortion in Courteney Martin's article, "Why Men Should Be Included in the Abortion Discussion".

Here's the conundrum: "When I was in high school, one of my friends got a secret abortion."

If secret, then the male involved was not informed of the girlfriend's condition. It was a decision she arrived at autonomously, as is her right.

I agree wholeheartedly that the conversation about abortion must include males as well as females, friends, families all the way up to general discussions of articles such as this. It is highly important, however, not to conflate and confuse such a conversation in its concrete particularities and in more theoretical circumstances. In other words, the "abortion issue" ought not to be confused with a particular woman's existential decisions when encountering an unwanted pregnancy. As a citizen, she has the right to speak or not about the situation, even including whomever she had relations with that brought the pregnancy, as she has the right to decide on what to do about it.

The ISSUE of abortion can and should and is being discussed, conversed about, debated, yelled about, and more and has been not only in our own times but in other historical periods. The problem comes when OTHERS decide, force, oppress and legislate upon a woman in those particular circumstances. It's a matter of social discussion and conversation which, the more fully it is discussed the more fully it influences each one of us to consider it and thus arrive at each of our decisions about it. It might, perhaps, be called responsible civility and development towards a fuller and more just Polis. We must remember, though, that no citizen has the right to infringe on the liberty of another; and laws which alienate a portion of a citizen's body (for instance, the reproductive organs) and rule separately over this portion, in effect dismember a citizen and thus have severe problems with justice. All the aforementioned assuming, of course, a republic, which it must be granted is very difficult to discern these days.

Further thoughts on heterosexual relationships, specifically marriage, Gravitas responds to Susie Bright's column, "The Sexual Self-Interest of the Cuckolded Wife" by talking about the myths that permeate society:

This article seems to have missed its own point!

How does the Senator's wife stand up there without puking? As the author said, some women go into denial. But it is hard to tell from the author's tone if she is compassionate or critical of them.

Other commenters have pointed out that rich women know the rules of the game. They don't expect monogamy. BINGO! And if they go into it for economic security, social status, or other practical reasons and are willing to look the other way, that is their business.

I think one solution is simply to end the myth that sex always equals love. For those out there who have fairy tale relationships, good for you, I don't want to take it away. But for many people, life long monogamy is just not realistic. Maybe people should free themselves from the white picket fence propaganda. Not everyone is cut out for marriage. Some marriages work better if there is an open arrangement. There is no one size fits all relationship, gay or straight.

When I look at what I hate about my life in my late 40s, I can honestly say there were two lies that contributed to my downfall. One, if you become thin you will live happily ever after. Two, if you find Prince Charming you will live happily ever after. The are both delusions designed to keep women distracted from avenues of real self determination. I spent my energy on things that were totally irrelevant,and thus unprepared to meet the real crises that came my way. If I could go over and redo my life, I would give myself an early education on the myths we instill in young women. I would instead focus on financial savy, and career flexibility. And I would find some wise woman to preach to me that the best relationship is the one you have with yourself, it is not out there waiting for you in the form of a prince on a white horse.

When Emily Wilson asked, "Are Men Threatened By Funny Women?", one of our readers, J. Bo responded by citing other funny women:

Jerry Seinfeld said the same thing when asked about why women are not perceived as/accepted as being as funny as men, especially in the world of stand-up comedy-- he said that being on a stage and making an audience laugh is an inherently dominating, aggressive act; for the audience, to laugh is to be helpless. As a culture we (men AND women) are uncomfortable being put in that position by a woman. It's a pretty primal prohibition.

OR, to quote Brett Butler, when she described rednecks squinting at her from the audience and what was clearly written across their sour faces: "You wouldn't be talkin' that trash if someone had taught you how to make biscuits..."

Funny women get told all the time (by well-meaning men) "You're the funniest woman/girl I know." I notice that men don't get their own subcategory when it comes to "funny." Apparently, there are comics, and then there are "women" comics.

The great Elayne Boosler decided decades ago that she would not participate in any showcase/event that was specifically identified as featuring "women" comics, and I admire that choice. She's doing her part to change the sexist status quo in the comedy world while being funny, fierce, political, NOT mean-spirited, and ... very successful.

I'm actually surprised at how many otherwise "enlightened" AlterNet readers fall back on tired, reactionary, stereotypical rhetoric regarding this topic. On "Politically Incorrect" years ago, Bill Maher posited that the dearth of female comedy writers on TV had less to do with sexism and the "old boy" club than the "fact" that women "just aren't as good at that kind of comedy." Janeane Garofalo shot back, "Yeah, I watch TV written by men, and I'm not laughing my ass off."

To his eternal credit, Maher fell over laughing, and told her she was right.

While we don't know the gender of InsertNameHere, we know that she/he deftly responded to the article, "Democratically Controlled Congress Stands on the Brink of Irrelevance on Iraq" by quipping:

Huh? What do you mean, '... stands on the brink?" These guys have been watching the brink in their rear view mirrors for quite some time. In fact, they are in danger of lapping said brink.

And speaking of warmongers, sofla100 responded to "Hooked on War: Thomas Friedman's Deadly Addiction" with another analysis of the mind of Thomas Friedman:

At one level Friedman seems like a misguided idealist. A typical neo-liberal whose faith in "the markets" and free trade unfortunately never makes it from the golf course to the poor in many a third world sweat shop hell hole. The great masses of humanity seemingly count for naught, as long as "GDP is increasing," which for Friedman, proves that "free trade is working." Never mind the increasing division between rich and poor across the world. We are to be delivered into a new world order, which of course will be backed by American military might. However, at another level, Friedman is undoubtedly representative of the point of view of not only the NY Times (which is obvious), but also your new rich elite. A cadre of rich investors, Wall Street financiers and corporate honchos, with whom he has "seen the future." And, it is a future of increasing world wealth (trickled down to the poor as in Reaganomics), unbridled capitalism and "free markets" (better chuck your national health care Britain and France due to it's "inefficiencies in the market") and, of course, dissatisfied third worlders (a.k.a. Muslims and all others who don't want to come aboard the gravy train to prosperity). Bottom line: this guy has simply repackaged capitalism to blend with a 1950s style "America civilizer of the world" mentality and is smart enough to do it with enough intellectual spin so as not to come off as retarded like as Rush Limbaugh. Even though, if you take apart their positions, they are hardly much different at all.

Speaking of the free market. Mr. Terrific praised, "How Popular Movements Can Confront Corporate Power and Win" and talked from his own experiences as to how the Protestant work ethic is killing America:

As a black male who grew up in the South, I remember remarking to a radio host in approximately 1991-92, that we are moving towards a "totalitarian" state. Naturally she felt I was totally out of my mind. I can only wonder what she feels now. The writing is on the wall and it is not graffiti. Our lives are being controlled and manipulated by the power elite directly and indirectly, through legislative enactments thanks to the corporate lobbyists, and judicial enforcement thanks to the Supreme Court, and all the lesser courts of the land. [...]

Americans who have wealth tend to own homes in other countries. Yet, there is always an exploited class that keeps the engine running, so that the elite can prosper on the backs, and eventually the carcasses of the poor and the so-called "middle" class, {look for economic statistics as to who truly is classified as middle class as in lower middle, middle middle, and upper middle}.

Growing up in the South as a black male, for years you would hear the adage "hard work never killed anyone!" Whenever I hear someone say that, I tell them to take a trip to the cemetary. Hard work has killed a lot people around the world. The best tool of achievement that a poor, disenfrancished person can have, is a very good education and hopefully some acquired skill sets to propel him or herself out of poverty.

As to the corporations and the fascists who represent them in our government and political system, the first step is know thy enemy. The second step is to plan a method of enlightening the masses, and the third step is to hope for a miracle, because we will need one!

Echoing similar thoughts was sofla100 who responded to "The Vanishing American Vacation":

In America, you either have lots of money (and power), or you don't. Ownership of the means of production is the key. Now, if you are an owner of a business or similarly well-moneyed, you already know that the government is on your side. Big money has already "greased all the wheels" when it comes to the politicians and all the laws. Hence, minimum wage levels are at the bottom in the industrialized world. Likewise for health benefits, vacations, and the like. So, is something like this article described any big surprise? In Europe, at least, you generally have the labor guilds. I know, in Germany, for example, they have considerable say in how the government develops labor policy and laws. Same thing in France. In America, we have nothing of the sort. Organized labor here is a distant memory of decades ago when it was strong. In fact, try to "organize," and you just might find yourself fired, jailed, or "roughed up" (at a minimum) by the powers that be.

Other disappointingly un-American activities have been written up in "U.S. Deports Parents of Dead Soldiers" where Maryanne eloquently expressed disappointment and frustration:

Daily we think that there is nothing left for this administration to destroy -- and everyday we learn that there is yet another aspect of this American experience that has had the destructive hand of this administration on it.

In response to this article, all we can say is that there is no word strong enough to describe this disgraceful lack of appreciation of the sacrifice of certain of our military. America weeps at this violation of what has happened to American values.

And while this goes on, we are asked to "support our troops". This administration needs to take a page from its own book and learn to appreciate the sacrifices our military have made- broken families, children without parents, incapacitated veterans, and now this ... But what can you expect from an administration that does not see people, only means to an end or collateral damage.

Switching gears, Jeff Hoffman responds to "Latin America's Surprising New Eco-Warriors" by arguing that the involvement of religious leaders in environmental protection is inherently limited if they don't embrace other issues:

It's great that some religious leaders are advocating for environmental protection on the ground that human destruction of "God's creation" is a sin. However, most religions, most notably Catholicism, are strongly opposed to doing anything about one of the two roots of environmental destruction and harm: human overpopulation. Until religions reverse their attitudes toward birth control and abortion, this will not change.

Unless human population is greatly reduced, environmental destruction will continue apace for two reasons. First, there are so many people in so many places that plants and other animals have nowhere to live. Some animals need large areas of land undisturbed by modern humans, and native plants cannot grow where humans build things, be they buildings, sidewalks, streets, or farms. Second, even if people were to consume only what they need, as a whole humans would still be over consuming if there are too many of us.

So overall, while I gladly welcome religious people into the environmental movement, I don't hold out much hope that religious leaders will do what is necessary in order to significantly reverse the severe environmental destruction that humans have been causing ever since we discovered agriculture.

Keeping on the question of religion, PJT contextualizes the meaning of Biblical law, by going way back as a response to the article: "Can the Alabama 'Ten Commandments' Judge Rise Again?"

Whenever the people who want me to live according to precepts laid out in a book of Stone Age myths and interpreted according to Medieval superstition get a lot of attention, I find myself wanting to talk directly with these people to ask some questions. My first question is, "why is this relevant to me?" Let me take one example, the commandment "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Are these words to be understood as written 3,000 years ago or is the admonition applicable to contemporary society? The people who first wrote this down were Bedouins who kept many "wives" as well as concubines, or sex slaves. All of the women were essentially chattel, or property. The adultery commandment doesn't make much sense in that context does it? Or, are they really saying that it is OK for me to treat my women folk like property, to have multiple wives and sex slaves? The commandment would have to mean "don't violate your neighbor's daughter who is still in her father's house so she becomes damaged goods: worthless as property". Why should I waste my time trying to figure out the relevance of this rule to my life?

Thanks for reading! We'll see you next week!

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