Ever sat down in a boardroom, at a gathering with friends, or in a classroom and come up with some really great plans for the future? Sure you have, everyone has. You are enthused, planning for this and that outcome, excited for the prospects of success and hopeful that all will go according to plan. You are quite likely to come up with a somewhat lengthy list of things you hope to do.
Now take a second sober thought. It turns out that you are the one tasked with making it all happen. You soon recognize the many complexities involved in realizing the plans, trade-offs to be made, resources to be expended, and so on and so forth.
I think that many of us express frustration about democracy because we do not get past the first stage in thinking about what can and can’t be achieved. We end up thinking about the meaning of democracy in improper terms.
There seems to be an idea floating around out there that democracy is about everyone having an equal opportunity and effective ability to be involved in political decision-making. There are so many ways of conceptualizing and operationalizing this, but it comes down to as many people from as many groups getting to influence actual decisions in meaningful ways.
The allure of this concept seems to garner empirical support from the Athenian model that serves as a template. In its heyday, Athens was a small city-state, in which citizens had the chance to deliberate and debate key issues, and decide on them in a more participatory fashion. Of course, this only applied to some citizens, but at the very least they genuinely took more time to deliberate, and decide on things on the basis of reasoning and argumentation that approximated inclusivity.
We can glean that something close to this ideal is what people think of today when they think of democracy. It can be seen through the complaints about it – that it is not inclusive enough, that people do not get to contribute to as many issues, that there is a “legitimacy deficit” between the political class and the ‘will’ of the citizenry. It is said that democracies are dying because voting rates have been declining, and there is less interest and engagement in politics.
There is also positive proof from the sheer number of academic disciplines and movements centred around a reconceptualization democracy—“participatory,” “deliberative,” “inclusive,” “direct,” “stakeholder involvement” are some of the terms and movements.
Scanning the Canadian news headlines these days, one finds language indicative of dissatisfaction with democracy and terms that represent modifications. “Will the Senate respect Democracy and First Nations rights?,” “We Have to be a part of it,” “Hoping to change how Women are represented in Politics.”
They touch mostly on inclusion and representation along majority/minority lines, defined by identity group. They constitute worthy goals to a certain extent, but much is lost in the vagueness and moralized valence of the language.
Indigenous governance issues are so fraught in Canada because of a history of injustice. Yet, the differences in culture, styles of government and economic systems are considerable. Thus, the practical barriers facing those trying to equalize and democratize decision-making and economic development are far from trivial.
It is hard to imagine how truly democratic—in any sense of the aforementioned buzzwords—a consultation and governance process can be that requires input from hundreds of distinct communities on a plethora of issues that touch on Indigenous Rights and land treaties. The Duty to Consult requirement, the number, distinctiveness and comprehensiveness of Self-Government treaties make it such that an idealized notion of democracy—balanced against practical concerns and in light of development objectives—is hard to achieve.
There is no doubt a good deal to be gained here from giving authority and discretion to local decision-makers, though the risk is always that it is done ineffectively—how much time, resources, and bureaucratic layering is required, for precisely which goals? Do the goals and practicalities differ group by group? What standard of “well-being”is desired by and for these communities and is it compatible with major cultural, institutional and economic differences?
I focused on “deliberative” democracy in grad school—a theoretical movement that argues that the meaning of democracy—rule of the demos (the people in a political unit) – implies more participation. It is yet attentive to the fact that mere expression of opinion is distinct from reasoned opinion, and voting and decision-making on that basis. Deliberation, practiced under certain constraints is supposed to remedy the twin deficits of unequal participation and representation, as well as the problem of ill-informed public opinion.
These goals are noble, but so much is lost in the details of implementation.
When you express your opinion, you are essentially listing your preferences for things and merely indicating that you would like them. There is no necessary ranking involved, no ties to the real world where you would have to consider that you could have one, but at the expense of the other. The idealized version of democracy is all about expressing opinions and preferences without paying attention to consequences.
Another issue is size, scope and efficiency in institutions. The reason why organizations work well is because they have a common purpose that is manageable. This serves as the organizing principle around which members can direct their actions. In an organization, disagreements and differences are put aside in light of the common interest in pursuit of the good in question. As size and number of goals increases, the specificity of the common purpose decreases and it becomes more vague and nebulous, and difficult to pursue.
That is why many of the morally loaded terms associated with democracy are deeply misleading. What common purpose are people pursuing in a society? There are only a few key things people can agree on, and those still only in certain contexts, and with many qualifications made. People differ on most things in minor and major ways.
What these points boil down to is that the attempt to “increase” diversity, representation, inclusion and so on, cannot be done ad infinitum with increasingly positive returns. Furthermore, as they increase beyond a certain threshold, they lose their meaning. Insofar as decisions must be made, agreements reached, and social norms fostered and maintained, the diversity that exists between cultures, people, and points of view must be levelled down. The great irony behind diversity and inclusive representation is that it is not so diverse, and not so inclusive. What we often see is visually recognizable diversity, though the “representatives” in question exhibit the same groupthink platitudes, behaviours and opinions.
Quite frankly, the core of democracy is just about having the chance to throw one group out at the end of the term and make room for the next. A good deal of the complaints about democracy are really about choice and influence. It is unfortunate that we have added such a strong sense of the term influence to the normative agenda, because that is so very hard to scale up on all fronts—like social status, it is a relative good for boring practical reasons. You simply cannot ‘equalize’ influence—this makes no sense.
If we think about democracy as choice and freedom, then by all accounts we are becoming more democratic when we have more possibilities to act freely, influence, and mould our own lives in the spheres in which they exist. The trend has been an upward one overall, and continues to increase due to the expansion of individual protections and economic freedoms in places around the world that have never known them. The more committees, referendums, hearings, government departments, agencies, and time spent “truly listening” to people, the less democratic we become because we’ve failed to look at mundane truths about size, complexity, trade-offs, time, and resources among many others.
A bestselling trans author’s tweet thread about abuse goes viral, then came the allegations of her own abuse
On Nov. 10, a celebrated trans author wrote a viral tweet thread that received over 100,000 likes. The thread complained about the discrepancy between successful, beautiful women, and their often abusive and unkempt male partners.
As it turns out, she may have been projecting.
The author, who writes under the pen name “Meredith Russo,” is formerly known as Meredith Stroud and Travis Lee Stroud. Her 2016 novel If I Was Your Girl received multiple awards and near-endless commendations from literary elites. On the back of the book’s success, Stroud, 32, was invited to publish an article in The New York Times on the struggles of being a transwoman. Stroud’s subsequent book, Birthday, received awards from Refinery29, Bustle and Nylon.
However, some Twitter users brought attention to a blog post from 2016 where the author’s arrest record and past relationship history were detailed, prompting the author to use block lists to squelch criticism.
“Domestic violence is insidious and slow, like the proverbial boiling frog,” Stroud’s ex-wife, Juniper Russo, said. “It’s hard to say when it all started.”
Juniper Russo alleges she was subjected to a campaign of sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of her former partner, abuse she says was so severe that the marriage culminated in a divorce in early 2015.
“We met on OKCupid in 2011 and got married in 2013,” Russo said, claiming the physical abuse started shortly after the wedding. “We had a lot of shared interests at the time, and I was naive enough to think that shared interests are the foundation of a healthy relationship.”
Russo shared disturbing details of some of the alleged abuses she suffered during her marriage to Meredith Stroud.
“When my son was born in 2014, I had severe pre-eclampsia and injuries from giving birth. I had to have major reconstructive surgery. I was extremely weak and in severe pain,” Russo said.
“Meredith was extremely abusive to me during this time, calling me a ‘feeding station, not a parent’ because breastfeeding my son was one of the only things I could do, and because I was asking [Meredith] to help with things like diapers,” Russo also alleges.
During this same time, Juniper says Stroud would tell her to commit suicide. “[Meredith] kept mocking me when I was in pain, and told me I was so useless as a parent I should just kill myself.”
Russo says she was first forced to call the police in late 2014, “[Meredith] was having an outburst. I got scared and called 911. [Meredith] took the phone from me, and was heard trying to prevent me from calling for help.”
As a result, Stroud was booked on charges of interfering with an emergency call.
Like many victims of domestic violence, Russo says she still loved and sympathized with her abuser.
“I ended up bailing [Meredith] out, and paying for the legal defense,” she said.
Russo said she often intervened to prevent Stroud from being charged with domestic abuse, noting that the police wanted to charge Stroud in Nov. 2014.
“I was always trying to protect [Meredith] because I knew men’s jail was not kind to transwomen,” Russo said. “She was always threatening suicide if she were to get arrested.” Russo continues, “Even when things were terrible, I was worried for her safety and didn’t want her to kill herself or be beaten to death in prison.”
Russo turned over 53 pages of legal documents to support her allegations.
The divorce record, which features a restraining order against Stroud, includes messages shared between the two in which Stroud admits to abusing Russo. These messages were accepted as evidence by the divorce courts.
In one series of messages from Facebook, Stroud is calmly attempting to diffuse Russo’s desire to proceed with the divorce, offering to go on medication and check into a psychiatric facility for psychosis maintenance.
In this same conversation, Russo expresses fear of Stroud eventually killing her.
In another, dramatically different text conversation, Stroud says she hopes Russo gets “run over by a f*cking truck” and demands Russo reduce child support payments.
At the time, Stroud was recorded by the court as having an income of $8,300 gross per month, having acquired a substantial six-figure advance from Flatiron Books, the publisher of Stroud’s debut novel, If I Was Your Girl. The court would later order Stroud to pay $1,068 per month.
But Russo says Stroud has not paid child support in years, and currently owes over $20,000 in back payments. In July of 2019, Russo attempted to start a GoFundMe to raise the money needed to legally compel Stroud to pay what was owed. Other than the child support arrangements, Russo did not request alimony or any other financial compensation from the seperation.
After the divorce, Russo says Stroud denigrated her in public, telling fans and followers on social media that Russo was “a TERF who had abused and left” Stroud due to her transition from male to female.
“Many trans people are the victims of violence and discrimination, so [Meredith’s] target audience found that totally relatable and credible. They had no reason to doubt her,” Russo said, noting that both she and her current wife are members of the LGBT community. Russo identifies as non-binary, while her current wife is a transwoman.
“I’ve been harassed quite a bit by Meredith’s social network. I lost a lot of friends and have been largely ostracized from our local LGBT community.” Russo says, “I’ll often be online and someone I don’t know will suddenly jump into a thread to announce I’m the TERF who ruined Meredith Russo’s life.”
Stroud continues to publicly call Russo an abuser, and claims she’s attempting to “destroy” [Stroud’s] career and finances.
The Post Millennial has reached out to Stroud as well as Flatiron-MacMillan Publishing and Stroud’s publishing agent Sarah Barley for comment. While the publishing house and agent did not respond by the time of publication, Stroud denied all allegations while calling The Post Millennial a slew of denigrating names.
When asked about her own admissions of abuse in the court document, Stroud again asserted “Either way, my response to the allegations is that I have not ever sexually or physically abused any of my sexual or romantic partners.”
Stroud claimed, at first, that she was “barred” from speaking about her relationship to her ex-wife by law. When questioned about why she had persistently made social media posts about that very subject, Stroud declined to answer before blocking the account used to contact her.
“Meredith thrives on lies and conflict, and she’s a writer, so she knows how to come up with a good story.” Russo says, “I knew when I left her that I’d become the subject of one of these stories.”
Included in the divorce and restraining order filings was an article Stroud wrote with the intention of submitting it to an LGBT magazine. The article, written as an introspective reflection on the couple’s relationship, states in detail the abuse Stroud subjected Russo to.
And despite Stroud’s public attempts to downplay the arrest, Stroud’s written account supports Russo’s claims that it was she who is responsible for jail bailout and the charges being dropped.
The document also backs Russo’s assertion that she continued to support and care for her spouse even after the repeated physical and sexual assaults, a far cry from Stroud’s claims on social media that Russo had been the abuser, and callously made Stroud homeless.
Due to Stroud’s continued public assertions that Russo is to blame, as well as the harassment from Stroud’s fans she’s received in the past as a result, Russo says she continues to fear retaliation.
Russo notes that some of the posts Stroud has made include threats of violence. From a now-deleted alternative Twitter account, Stroud posted how she wanted Russo’s friends to be “brutally killed” in the style of a violent horror movie.
“My main hope, in discussing all of this, is that the defamation against myself and my family will stop.” Russo comments, “I’ve worked so hard to rebuild my life in the five years since I left Meredith, and I’m emotionally exhausted by the fact that I’m still being defamed on a daily basis as a ‘TERF’ and abuser, and that it’s affected my family so profoundly.”
Despite everything, Juniper Russo says she does not wish ill upon her former spouse, and supports Stroud’s work in the literary world.
“I still have to believe that there’s some good inside of [Meredith] and that she’s leaving some kind of positive mark on the world. If her books have saved one single teenager from suicide, I’d consider that to outweigh the pain and trauma I’ve had to endure at her hands.” Russo continues on to note that deeply flawed people can sometimes make good art.
“It’s important to be aware that someone who creates inspiring work is not necessarily a good person, and I think it’s dangerous for anyone to look up to Meredith as a role model, or to take anything she says at face value.”
Russo concluded. “Her work, including how she presents herself and speaks of those around her, is fictional. I’d caution anyone against mistaking any of it for reality.”
High school teachers in Ontario have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike, according to CTV News.
After a vote in Toronto, 95 percent of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) voted in favour, thus providing an “overwhelming” mandate to carry out strike action.
Alongside teachers, the union also represents education workers who also voted strongly in favour of a strike.
The OSSTF now has to send a five-day notice stating when the strike will begin. After this, they will be in a legal position to stage a strike.
Elementary school teachers and Catholic school board teachers are also expected to threaten strike action.
Well known Christian fast-food organization Chick-fil-A has decided to halt funding to two organizations that critics call ‘anti-LGBT,’ and advocates call ‘pro-traditional family.’
For years now, Chick-fil-A, the Georgia-based chicken restaurant has faced backlash from LGBT groups for their hefty donations to The Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Recently, in Toronto, the opening of the city’s first Chick-fil-A was greeted with large groups of both LGBT and animal rights protestors, making for some viral moments as activists staged ‘die-ins,’ attempted to stop people from entering the restaurant, and yelled customers’ faces with megaphones.
Chick-fil-A told ABC News that they would instead be focusing on donations to groups that prevent homelessness, hunger, and education, starting next year.
“Beginning in 2020 the Chick-fil-A Foundation will introduce a more focused giving approach, donating to a smaller number of organizations working exclusively in the areas of hunger, homelessness and education,” Chick-fil-A said in a statement Monday.
“We have also proactively disclosed our 2018 tax filing and a preview of 2019 gifts to date on chick-fil-afoundation.org,” the statement continued. “The intent of charitable giving from the Chick-fil-A Foundation is to nourish the potential in every child.”
COO of Chick-fil-A Tim Tassopoulos stated that “no organization will be excluded from future consideration, faith-based or non-faith-based.
Tim Tassopoulos, the president and COO of Chick-fil-A, added that “no organization will be excluded from future consideration, faith-based or non-faith-based.”
“Our goal is to donate to the most effective organizations in the areas of education, homelessness and hunger,” Tassopoulos added.
Chick-fil-A has long been known as a faithful staple in the fast-food industry, having been described as a restaurant that “sells chicken with a side of Christianity” by the Atlantic in 2014.
The restaurant was founded by the late S. Truett Cathy, who opened the first chicken-sandwich stand in an Atlanta mall in 1967. Cathy, a man of faith, made a conscious effort to incorporate Christianity into his business, even putting Bible quotes on the styrofoam sweet-tea cups, and ensuring that stores remained closed on Sabbath, keeping this rule intact long after many other businesses moved away from similar Blue law policies.
In 2012, Cathy was quoted saying that he believes in the “biblical definition of the marriage,” that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. This statement from Cathy, who was 86 at the time, prompted major national attention and controversy.
Cathy’s statement led to a domino effect of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, starting when a New York woman planned an LGBT kissing event at one of the restaurants. This then led to former U.S. presidential candidate and Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee holding a “Chick-fil-A appreciation day.”
This is all exasperated by Cathy’s frequent funding to the Salvation Army, which LGBT groups have long accused of being anti-LGBT, thanks largely to comments made by one Australian Salvation Army leader who said that gays “should be put to death.”
To this controversy, the Salvation Army has responded, stating:
“It is important to note that the Army around the world immediately rejected those comments and made public statements against them. We stand by the rejection of those comments still. We sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community and to our clients, employees, donors and volunteers for the offence caused by this misrepresentation of the Army’s views.”
In addition, the Salvation Army also has also pointed out that they do not discriminate against anyone in need, regardless if they are LGBT.
“For more than 130 years, The Salvation Army has had the privilege of serving vulnerable people in over 400 communities across Canada. Last year, we helped over 1.8 million people. We assisted people from the LGBTQ community and will continue to do so. And we employ individuals from the LGBTQ community as well.”
The other group Chick-fil-A frequently donated to, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was subject to extreme backlash after comments regarding their support of the Bible’s definition of traditional marriage, stating:
“God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.”
A Chick-fil-A spokesperson told Reuters that “We made multi-year commitments to both organizations and we fulfilled those obligations in 2018.”
The spokesperson later refused to comment to Reuters on whether the protests influenced the decision to change donations.
Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell has called Wexit “nuts” and that it was created to sow “unnecessary division.”
Speaking to Global News, Campbell stated that “adult” conversations were necessary with policies like equalization, and yet the dialogue has been anything but mature.
“We’re a complex country and we are always going to have issues that need solving,” she added. When Campbell was prompted on Wexit she gave out an incensed screech: “It’s nuts! I’m sorry, it’s a dead-end, so Alberta’s going to separate and that’s going to make it easier to get access to open water? That is a slogan designed to make people angry.”
Campbell’s comments come after the surging support in western separatism deriving from Justin Trudeau’s re-election. Since then, a notable online presence has grown in support of the Wexit movement, and the premiers of western provinces have cautioned Trudeau of the stark consequences of western alienation.
Campbell finished by saying that the Wexit movement “was not how grown-up people address problems … I see this and I think grow up!”
A Twitter search of Campbell’s tweets on Quebec show no similar criticism of the separatist movement in that province.