December 18, 2012
A prologue: My thoughts and heart remain with those who lost loved ones in Newtown last Friday. I am so, so heartbroken that we as a society did not do better by those children and their caretakers.
I suppose I should further preface this post by stating unequivocally that my thoughts here are solely my own opinions, and do not reflect the viewpoints of any of my employers. Furthermore, I do not pretend to speak for other teachers at any level. These musings simply reflect where I stand on this issue at the moment.
This post contains musings on past mass shootings and the potential for similar events in the future. If you would rather go look at GIFs featuring adorable dogs and children, I completely understand.
November 11, 2011
Discussion of the recent revelation of events at Penn State has been happening everywhere, and a lot of people are saying really smart things on the subject. Plenty of people are saying stunningly ignorant and/or hurtful things, too, which is why I wanted to highlight one of the best things I’ve read on the subject. Guess what—it’s from the Onion:
Given the delicate situation, sportswriters said they felt the need to tread lightly and initially only asked victims how they thought Paterno might be feeling during this difficult time. They then followed up with more substantial questions about being exploited and preyed upon by a sexual deviant, such as how the victims thought their being pinned against a wall while Sandusky assaulted them might hurt Penn State’s 2012 recruiting class; how covering up a systematic pedophile victim-grooming pipeline, in the form of youth football camps, might damage the culture of winning Paterno worked so hard to establish; and whether they were worried about the mental state of the team heading into Saturday’s game against Nebraska.
That is some fiercely incisive commentary right there.
October 13, 2011
There’s a photo being shared around Facebook (I tried to find a version I could link to, but wasn’t able to); I’ve now seen it twice on my feed. In the photo, what appears to be a young woman holds a hand-written note up in front of her face. In that note, she tells her audience that she is a senior in college and will soon graduate debt-free. She has worked hard and lived within her means, eschewing luxuries like a new car or an iPad, and is thus able to live comfortably. “I expect nothing handed to me,” she says, “and will continue working my ass off for everything I have.” She goes on to say, “That’s how it’s supposed to work,” and concludes, “I am NOT part of the 99 percent and whether you are or not is YOUR decision.”
I have a problem with this narrative. First of all, that last part appears to be based on a misunderstanding of what “we are the 99%” actually means. That statement is based on the distribution of wealth in the United States, i.e. the fact that the top 1% of the population control a sizeable chunk of the country’s wealth. The 1% is made up of the billionaires, the CEOs on Wall Street, the rich folks, the ones who use “vacation” as a verb, and so on and so forth. The 99% is the rest of us, the workaday folks, the ones who are really only one major accident or illness or layoff away from losing everything, no matter how much we believe that if we follow all the rules (don’t spend more than you earn, neither a borrower nor a lender be, keep your nose to the grindstone, etc.), we’ll always be able to live comfortably. And many of the 99% will indeed always be able to live comfortably, especially the middle class white folks. For many others, though, things don’t always turn out so rosy.
Secondly, here’s the thing: I understand how reasonable people can disagree on the efficacy and nature of the Occupy Wall Street protests. What I don’t understand is a) how and why people translate “hold Wall Street accountable for its actions” into “by demanding the aforesaid, I abdicate any and all responsibility for the decisions I myself have made,” and b) how, when faced with a choice between sympathizing with the “unwashed masses” of the 99% and the Wall Street CEOs, people who are in similar income brackets to my own would choose to sympathize with the CEOs. Sure, I’m in debt because I made some arguably questionable decisions—decisions that I nevertheless stand by today. But you know who helped me back up when I was at my lowest? It sure as hell wasn’t Bank of America. It was my friends and family—again, members of the 99%. We, i.e. the American people, bailed Wall Street out; they’ll only return the favor if they deem us an acceptable risk based on our credit scores, income, and other assests. How does that not strike more people as fucked up?
I guess people repost pictures like the one I describe above because they want to believe that’s true—again, that if you follow the rules, you’ll be okay. It actually reminds me of a certain variety of rape apologism, the one that appears to buy into the idea that if you follow a particular set of rules (this time it’s be a “good girl,” don’t drink or do drugs, don’t go places with strange men and DEFINITELY don’t have sex with them!, don’t dress in any way that could be termed indecent, etc.), you won’t get raped. Nevermind that people are often (usually?) raped by someone they know. Nevermind the innumerable survivors who’ve been raped in their own homes. Nevermind that both sets of rules rely on a fair amount of denial and magical thinking (child abuse? sudden catastrophic illness? whuzzat?). This is what we’re told, and what many people choose to believe: follow the rules, and you’ll be safe from harm.
And if you truly believe that, I’ve got a bridge or two you might be interested in.
August 27, 2010
[My hope is to ease my way back into blogging by pointing to someone else's writing first. We'll see how it goes. ]
Everyone and their pet lemur is talking these days about the so-called Ground Zero mosque. I’m inclined to think that a lot of pundits are being deliberately disingenuous: they know full well that it’s a community center, not just a mosque, and they know full well that it’s not on the actual Ground Zero site. However, plenty of people out there hear discussion of a Ground Zero mosque and believe that’s exactly what’s being proposed: a mosque built on the spot where the Twin Towers used to be. I can understand why people would be opposed to that particular proposition; I wouldn’t be terribly fond of it myself, not because of any hard feelings toward Muslims, but because I wouldn’t be particularly keen on seeing any sort of place of formalized religious worship built there. (I quite like Roger Ebert’s proposal of a green field, discussed toward the end of this post.)
My point, then, is that I appreciate the various attempts being made at clarifying the discussion, at discussing the issue as it actually is. In particular, I liked what Jill Filipovic had to say on the subject close to a week ago (emphasis added):
Alvy Singer was probably right when he said that the rest of the country looks at New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers – that’s why a lot of us transplants moved here in the first place. But Republicans have made it clear that they don’t find that characterization nearly as charming as many of us do. When election time rolls around, New York is the GOP’s favorite punching bag: We’re not “real America;” we’re elitists; we’re latte-drinking arugula-eaters. For 364 days a year, Republicans are happy to characterize us as Sodom to San Francisco’s Gomorrah.
And then there’s September 11th. Any mention of that day and all of a sudden we’re a city so important, and of such hallowed ground, that local zoning laws and the decisions of our community boards should be issues of national debate.
The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” which is neither at Ground Zero nor a mosque, was catapulted into the national spotlight by anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller as evidence of the supposed “Islamicization” of America. . . .
Go read the rest here (it’s the second post on the page–and for the record, I understand and appreciate what Karol Markowicz is saying in the first post on that page; I just don’t agree).
June 30, 2010
A few years ago I posted a poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca entitled “So Mexicans Are Taking Jobs from Americans,” and that post remains one of the most-viewed posts on this blog. I like that, because the poet is a favorite of mine, and I think the poem is an excellent example of the power of poetry: it establishes and illustrates an argument in such a lovely and succinct way. I also like the fact that I can tell from the search terms people have used when they click on the post that there are many people who come across the post who do indeed believe that Mexicans are taking Americans’ jobs away, because I hope perhaps they read the poem, and it makes them think, makes them consider a viewpoint that hadn’t occurred to them before.
Unfortunately, if one looks at the comments on that post, one will see that there are several people who enter the search terms, come across the post, read the title of the poem, then head for the comments section. As a result, for better or for worse, those folks believe that I am alleging that Mexicans really are taking jobs from Americans. This morning someone posted a comment that basically agreed with that idea, and groused about everything from affirmative action (“You may see that someone who has a Spanish surname was chosen for the job over someone who did not”) to having to press 1 to receive instructions in English. “Yep,” I thought (while rolling my eyes), “it’s hard out here for a gringa.”
Therefore, because it’s still such a prevalent mindset that immigrants are taking jobs that hard-working [white, non-Latin@, etc.] Americans would happily do if they only had the chance, I thought I’d point to an interesting campaign led by the United Farm Workers called Take Our Jobs:
Take Our Jobs is a national campaign led by United Farm Workers aimed at hiring U.S. citizens and legal residents to fill jobs that often go to undocumented farm workers. The effort spotlights the immigrant labor issue and underscores the need for reforms without which the domestic agricultural industry could be crippled, leading to more jobs moving off shore.
In response to the campaign, Grist notes:
Because really, forget Census taking — what American doesn’t want a back-breaking, hot, dangerous (workers get enslaved, poisoned by pesticides, and die from heat stroke) job with no health benefits, paid vacation, or even a living wage?
Finally, I think it’s worth noting that the aforementioned Baca poem was published in 1977. Three decades, and we still can’t get past the rhetoric of “they took our jobs!!”? Ugh…
January 14, 2010
Feministe has a post up detailing a variety of ways to send aid (predominantly in monetary form) to Haiti. Please check it out, and be sure to read the comments as well, where there are some helpful follow ups as well as some good suggestions for the long haul—since Haitians will be struggling with the aftermath of this earthquake long after it has disappeared from the mainstream news cycle.
Also, I would just like to state for the record that Pat Robertson can fuck directly off.
December 10, 2009
Well, color me surprised: “Reverend Rick Warren released a video letter to clergy in Uganda today, speaking out against proposed legislation in that country that punishes homosexual activity with death.” You can view the video at the link, or if you’d rather not watch the message, I’ve transcribed Warren’s message below the fold. While I’m grateful that Warren finally spoke out on the subject, his message leaves much to be desired, and I think it comes off as defensive at some points and painfully self-congratulatory at others. All the same, is this the best we can hope for from evangelical leaders — a statement that essentially boils down to the notion that LGBTQ folks deserve respect and dignity, and should not be imprisoned or put to death simply for being who they are? I mean, I guess that’s a place to start, but — is it really so naive or foolish of me to expect more? Read the rest of this entry »
December 7, 2009
The Episcopal Church joins many other Christians and people of faith in urging the safeguarding of human rights everywhere. We do so in the understanding that “efforts to criminalize homosexual behavior are incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (General Convention 2006, Resolution D005).
This has been the repeated and vehement position of Anglican bodies, including several Lambeth Conferences. The Primates’ Meeting, in the midst of severe controversy over issues of homosexuality, nevertheless noted that, as Anglicans, “we assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship” (Primates’ Communiqué, Dromantine, 2005).
The Episcopal Church represents multiple and varied cultural contexts (the United States and 15 other nations), and as a Church we affirm that the public scapegoating of any category of persons, in any context, is anathema. We are deeply concerned about the potential impingement on basic human rights represented by the private member’s bill in the Ugandan Parliament.
It goes on from there, too. Doesn’t seem so hard, does it? Nor does it seem to contradict your Christian values. Now, you know and I know that your refusal to condemn the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda has much more to do with connections and politics than with any actual issues of faith, but when a person of faith is in the public eye as much as you are, couldn’t you at least pretend to care about other people’s suffering? (Aside from the ostensible 146,000 Christian martyrs, that is. Also, what do you suppose the odds are that none of those ostensible 146,000 Christians were gay? Welcome to the idea of overlapping oppressions!)
Meh. I don’t even know why I care what Rick Warren thinks or says, particularly, except that he has such a large platform to speak from, and his church is nearly in my hometown…
At any rate, though, kudos to the Episcopal church! I don’t at all believe that you have to be a person of faith in order to work toward “the safeguarding of human rights everywhere,” but it’s always nice to see people of faith choose to do so.
December 1, 2009
Keith Haring’s “Silence = Death,” 1989
From The Body: What Can You Do, See, Hear and Know on World AIDS Day 2009?
The theme for World AIDS Day this year is HIV treatment access and human rights. Uganda’s “Anti-Homosexuality” bill is therefore relevant to this discussion:
The bill would criminalize the legitimate work of national and international activists and organizations working for the defense and promotion of human rights in Uganda. It would also put major barriers in the path of effective HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, the groups said.
“Discrimination and punitive laws like this aimed at marginalized groups and at those often among the most affected by HIV drives people underground and does nothing to help slow down the AIDS epidemic,” said Daniel Molokele, Africa program officer at the World AIDS Campaign.
(Rather an unfortunate topic for Pastor Rick Warren to declare himself apolitical on, then, no?)
On the eve of World AIDS Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday made the strongest statement yet by an administration official that the United States will not tolerate efforts to criminalize homosexuality among countries that receive U.S. funding to combat HIV/AIDS.
Also from Human Rights Watch: World AIDS Day: Punitive Drug Laws, Policing Practices Impede HIV/AIDS Response
Now that the U.S. has lifted the travel ban for people with HIV, the International AIDS Society has announced that it will hold its 2012 conference in the US, which will be the first time the conference has met here since 1990. (I recently read about the Society’s early meetings in And the Band Played On; I hope to have a review posted within the next few days.)
Education is still essential: Michigan teenagers, for example, are still becoming infected with HIV at an alarming rate.
From Sex in the Public Square: Thinking Local on World AIDS Day
November 10, 2009
To begin with, for the record, here is the pertinent section of the Stupak-Pitts amendment:
SEC. 265. LIMITATION ON ABORTION FUNDING.
(a) IN GENERAL—No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.
People who believe that women might have valid reasons to seek an abortion outside of danger of death, rape, or incest, and who understand that many women, should they find themselves in a position where they need or want to terminate a pregnancy, would need that procedure covered by insurance that is funded, entirely or in part, by the government, find this amendment unsettling, to say the least. (See Ann, Jill, and Shark-Fu’s takes.) The idea that the amendment will probably get removed in committee? Not particularly reassuring. The idea that the amendment is only talking about induced abortion, and couldn’t possibly be used to refuse coverage of an elective D&C to remove an incomplete abortion (as in, after a miscarriage, also known medically as a spontaneous abortion)? Yeah, that one’s also not particularly reassuring. The idea that this is not a big deal, it’s just politics, we have to look at the bigger picture? That’s not reassuring, and it’s patronizing! Whee! Read the rest of this entry »