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.
May 30, 2012
Recently I went off on a rant about the number of Christians who don’t even really know what their own religious text actually says, citing the lack of awareness/understanding of Peter’s vision in Acts as my prime example. I thought of that when reading Fred Clark, who has way more cred than I do on the subject, and so I wanted to point to him and say, “Look! See! This is what I was talking about!”
About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.’ The voice said to him again, a second time, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.
A little bit later, Peter draws this conclusion about the vision: “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”
Fred Clark expounds on the different interpretations of that passage (i.e. the one that sees the story as just a rationale for why Christians don’t have to keep kosher, versus the one that reflects what the story actually says) here. A sampling:
Consider, for example, the purpose of Peter’s vision. It wasn’t sent because Red Lobster was about to bring back “endless shrimp,” but because of the people who were about to knock on Peter’s door. The author of Acts makes sure we don’t miss that point, writing: “While Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the [impure, uncircumcised, bacon-loving Gentile] men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate.”
I suppose it could be argued that stating that there’s only One True Way that Acts 10 can be interpreted, I’m no better than those against whom I would argue: I’m still using a particular religious text as a mere tool to argue for my particular point of view. At the same time, though… I dunno, it seems to me that if you’re going to go around calling yourself a biblical literalist and that kind of thing, it might be worth looking at what the bible actually says. And furthermore, the stories we tell one another mean things, things that have resonance beyond the literal words on the page or images on the screen. Dracula was about more than just a dude who consumed blood to survive. Dystopian novels aren’t just purely imaginatory exercises; they offer commentary on our world as it currently exists.
What we have here is not just a failure to communicate; it’s a failure of imagination. And as always, while I respect the rights of people with whom I disagree to believe whatever it is they believe, in the privacy of their own homes, in their places of worship, etc.—when they start bringing it into the public sphere and trying to create public policy based on who they believe is clean and who is unclean, well, I’m going to have something to say about that.
April 10, 2012
Just wanted to use my tiny platform to point toward a few things I thought worth reading. Enjoy!
As feminist and fat acceptance movements evolved from second-wave protests to contemporary digital activism, Fat Is a Feminist Issue connected the dots between two parallel causes for human rights while championing the individual’s right to be healthy and happy at every size. Orbach’s pioneer insistence that feminists needed to talk about body image and compulsive eating, while fat activists had to acknowledge issues of gender and difference, united two notorious social-activist movements that made progress possible across a dual spectrum of civil rights.
Why “I prefer small boobs” isn’t helping (Alternate title, from comments: Female Body Image and Male Perception in the Context of Feminist Discussion: When Women Talk About Body Image on a Feminist Blog, We’re Not Actually Worried That Men Don’t Think We’re Pretty):
“Don’t worry, insecure girl, there are people out there who think you’re hot” isn’t a revolutionary perspective, and thinking it’s a necessary contribution to a thread about female objectification and body image demonstrates a lack of understanding of the subject.
We all secretly went back in time, right?
That’s the only way I can get my head around Wisconsin’s repeal of their Equal Pay Act on the argument that “Money is more important to men”, piled on top of the birth control “debate” and Georgia passing legislation based on the idea that women are anatomically and ethically identical to pigs and cows. We fell through a time vortex and it’s 1959 and half of the twentieth century didn’t happen.
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.
October 7, 2011
I imagine that many of you have now seen the Think Progress article discussing the fact that the Topeka, KS city council is considering decriminalizing domestic battery. I wanted to take a moment to dig a bit deeper into the specifics, and figure out what we can do to make a difference in this situation.
Here’s what’s going on, as best as I can figure out: to save money, the county in which Topeka is located, Shawnee, opted to stop prosecuting misdemeanors committed in Topeka. This meant that a whole bunch of domestic battery cases were dumped on the city, which is ill-equipped to handle them. The solution proposed by the Topeka City Council is that they repeal the part of the municipal code that bans domestic battery. The rationale for this is that it would force the county to start prosecuting those cases again. While I understand that impulse, the move strikes me as short-sighted and potentially dangerous. My hope is that between the council and those of us who live here and care about such things, we have to be able to come up with a solution to this problem that doesn’t involve literally decriminalizing domestic battery.
Locals: please contact the city council. It might be worth mentioning that this is making Topeka look bad on the national level, and could well be considered detrimental to local business and investment. It might also be worth contacting the Shawnee County District Attorney, Chad Taylor.
Thank you for your time and consideration!
April 21, 2011
Wild Nights—Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
To a heart in port—
Done with the compass—
Done with the chart!
Rowing in Eden—
Ah, the sea!
Might I moor—Tonight—
April 20, 2011
after information received in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4 v 86
The population center of the USA
Has shifted to Potosi, in Missouri.
The calculation employed by authorities
In arriving at this dislocation assumes
That the country is a geometric plane,
Perfectly flat, and that every citizen,
Including those in Alaska and Hawaii
And the District of Columbia, weighs the same;
So that, given these simple presuppositions,
The entire bulk and spread of all the people
Should theoretically balance on the point
Of a needle under Potosi in Missouri
Where no one is residing nowadays
But the watchman over an abandoned mine
Whence the company got the lead out and left.
“It gets pretty lonely here,” he says, “at night.”
—Howard Nemerov, 1987
April 19, 2011
Night with Drive-By Shooting Stars
Broken beer bottle, fresh with the smell.
A corny joke among hip teenagers.
A loud laugh smacks cement. Muffled
bass from sky radio.
A screen door rattles, moans. A bus moans,
rattles. Litter of light from tall buildings
far away. A sandwich in its wrapper
spoiled by the day’s heat.
The arcing pain of a trigger. A car
idles, the engine tapping, eternal.
—Jim Daniels, 2002
April 18, 2011
The Perfecting of Desire
This is what matters:
the curve of muscle
in his forearm, the way
he smells—smoke, old leather,
beer. What matters
is desire, the way
his beard rubs my thigh,
the way my breath stops
as he slides inside me.
Our flesh sighs into light,
into flame, darkness illuminate.
Stripped down to the porous
skeleton of necessity, we are refined
to pure male and pure female, encompassed
by forces larger than ourselves.
My teeth graze his neck;
his hands bruise my shoulders.
And when we come
to ourselves, slightly sheepish, strangers
in our own bodies, we do not speak
of the place we left.
Some nights, we surrender
like angels, shaky and awed
by what we can do.
—Lisa D. Chávez, 1998
From Destruction Bay