Thursday, November 17, 2016
My translation isn't quite literal. It is written so it can be sung to the original tune.
El Derecho de Vivir en Paz
by Victor Jara
We have the right to live.
The poet Ho Chi Minh
exposes his Vietnam
to the rest of humanity.
The trenches where green rice grows
won't disappear in gun smoke.
We have the right to live in peace.
Indochina is the land
beyond the ocean and sand
where flower blossoms bloom
with genocide and napalm.
An explosion replaces the moon,
and silences all but doom,
We have the right to live in peace.
Uncle Ho, we have a song,
that's burning with our pure love.
It's a dovecote with a dove,
an olive fruit in the grove.
It's the universal song--
a chain that links all of mankind.
We have the right to live in peace.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman
This book is wonderfully written with vivid details that bring 13th century England to life. It begins with our orphan hero clinging to a dung heap for warmth. The plot was fairly simple--a nameless waif gains an identity by helping others--but it didn't shy away from the brutalities of Medieval life. I also learned a lot of great archaic superstitions, like smearing crane's blood on a pregnant woman will ease contractions.
Addie and the King of Hearts by Gail Rock
The story, told in 86 pages, is pretty simple. 13-year old Addie has a crush on her teacher, preferring his sophisticated conversations on art to the teasing of her classmate Billy. Her widowed father also has just begun dating again. But during the Valentine's Day dance, Addie learns that love can often be unexpected, and your dreams don't always go according to plan. I enjoyed seeing Addie grow up in the course of the book. The prologue and epilogue, narrated by the adult Addie looking back at her childhood in the 1940s, helped to create this perspective of growth and change.
Three Days by Donna Jo Napoli
When 11-year old Jackie's father collapses while they are driving down a highway in Italy, she doesn't know what to do. She attempts to wave cars down, but everyone in this foreign country seems cruelly indifferent. At last, a car stops and picks up Jackie, but they don't take her to the police or to anyone who can speak English. Instead, the drive her to a remote farmhouse where she is forced to wear the clothes of a girl who is nowhere to be seen.
The writing style of this book is a bit more plain than some of the other middle-grade books I've read recently, like the Midwife's Apprentice, but it still had a very sweet story. It's written in present tense, and I feel like present tense is good at pushing the story forward but makes it hard to find space for rich descriptions. The Italian country side where the bulk of the story took place was still vivid enough to serve it's purpose. The plot twist was pretty obvious to me, but probably wouldn't be to a young child.
The Black Pearl by Scott O'Dell
Ramon is the scrawny 16-year old son of the richest pearl dealer in their small Mexican town. He wants to become a pearl diver so he can claim his manhood by finding the Pearl of Heaven, but his father delegates Ramon to bookkeeping. Instead, Ramon disobeys his father and goes diving in a forbidden cave guarded by Manta Diablo, the monstrous manta ray said to have the ability to shape shift and cover the lagoon in blinding red fog. He finds what is his looking for--a perfect black pearl bigger than anyone has ever seen, but it brings a curse down on Ramon and his family. This book was written like a fable: simple, but very rich in symbolism.
Of all the middle-grade books that I've read recently, this was the only one that I went out of my way to get. The rest were all things I stumbled on randomly at thrift stores or little libraries. That is because the book I'm writing also has to do with a young person discovering a pearl, and I wanted to be sure that the similarities ended there. I'm pleased to say they do.
A lot of my closest friends have told me that I have a perspective they think more people need to hear. They appreciate the connections I make between events any my insights on contemporary culture. But as someone who has struggled with social anxiety most of my life, I'm also always terrified to express my ideas around people I don't know well.
I want to be bolder at expressing my opinions in public, and I think I am working on it. Right now, blogging about politics doesn't seem like the format for me. The moment you write something down, you make it harder to change your opinion later. I wouldn't want to have a hastily made opinion come back to haunt me. Having real dialogue with real people is my goal.
On a side note, I want to bring back this brilliant Bush-era political meme. Though there are a few items that are outdated (see if you can spot the Katrina reference), I think it touches on a lot of the things relevant this election.
Friday, November 11, 2016
First of all, Clinton lost because she failed to shore up her base, particular in the Rust Belt, where we now know her campaign was underfunded and understaffed. Millions of voters decided they'd rather stay home than vote for a hypocrite who voted to put a wall on the Mexican border in 2006, shilled for her husband's tough on crime bill, and defamed every woman who accused him of sexual harassment, then had the nerve to campaign as a feminist committed to criminal justice reform and immigrant rights. All the polls were wrong because they presumed Clinton would have the same turnout rate Obama did, which was a fallacious assumption. Trump didn't sway many voters with his message. People who were likely to vote Republican voted Republican. Liberals who couldn't stand the thought of voting for someone so blatantly against their interest just didn't vote for her. And I'm not going to blame them. Clinton was a bad candidate and deserved to lose. But the country doesn't deserve to have every branch of the federal government controlled by Republicans.
But my concern isn't primarily Hillary Clinton, who hopefully will finally take the hint that she's not wanted in national politics, it is the silencing tactics and language policing that are so common in liberal enclaves like universities. Students being suspended for private Facebook comments, employees being fired for misinterpreted Twitter jokes, university speech codes and blacklisting speakers have all been in the news a lot the past couple years, and for good reason. These are terrifying attacks on free discourse. Liberals have been told time and time again that these tactics alienate a lot of people, most especially blue collar whites, but they haven't listened. I believe reaction against what is broadly called "political correctness" might have been a factor in some of the states where Trump only narrowly won. I'm less concerned about what Donald Trump will do in the next four years, though I'm sure that will be bad enough, and more concerned that in the face of such resounding failure, liberals will double down on all their mistakes, and thus continue to lose federal elections.
Just days after the election, there were already reports of the University of Louisville suspending a cheerleader for saying on Twitter that she was tired of hearing about sexism and racism. Now I don't agree with her statements, but this isn't the way to bring her over to our side. This is the way to harden her beliefs. This is a way to convince her, wrongly I might add, that whites are the primary victims in this country, or heighten that belief if she has it already. This isn't an isolated incident. Every few months there is a story like this in the news. All it does is feed the alt-right narrative that whites are discriminated against and liberals are totalitarians who want to control speech and thought. Banning certain words, phrases and ideas doesn't stop people from thinking the "wrong" thoughts, all it does is make them frustrated and alienated.
There have already been endless hit pieces decrying racism as the cause of Trump's rise. I won't deny that it's a factor, but it doesn't explain why Trump did better among people of color than Mitt Romney. It doesn't explain why numerous counties Obama won went for Trump, or the individual voters who chose both candidates. We need to go deeper, and the only way to go deeper is to have free and open discourse.
We also need to take a hard look at the language we use to discuss racism and admit why it is alienating to so many people. I'm not telling people of color how to act, as there is certainly a place for their righteous anger. My frustration is aimed at smug white anti-racism allies, who should be the ones listening the to frustrations of working class whites and assure them that their economic concerns are valid and don't conflict with the aims of anti-racism, but they'd rather burn down bridges at every turn, most especially those well-educated, middle class whites who use "white" as an insult. It is a form of virtue signaling that does nothing but drive potential allies away.
The revelation that Clinton's campaign had conspired with journalists to promote her agenda can also be seen as an attack on free discourse and a violation of the supposed independent nature of the press. Her supporters are probably correct that she would have won the Democratic primary regardless, but that doesn't get her off the hook. Nixon would have trounced McGovern even without Watergate. He still had to pay the price for it. Clinton's actions weren't criminal, but the price she had to pay was the loss of trust among young people and blue collar workers who supported Sanders. I'm going to repeat that I don't blame these voters for staying home, voting third party, or leaving the presidential slot blank. Clinton failed them and didn't earn their support. If she was really concerned about the horror of a Trump presidency, she shouldn't have run such a corrupt and incompetent campaign.
Like a lot of people, I took it for granted that people would vote for Clinton despite her corruption, endless scandals, hypocrisy and robotic personality, and despite the well-published liberal attacks on free speech. I voted for her when I turned up at my Massachusetts ballot box, though I made my disdain for her clear to everyone I know. But I didn't campaign for her. If it was Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker or, yes, Bernie Sanders running, I would have made election calls in swing states every weekend because I could honestly say I would be excited to have them as my president. I'm sure I'm not the only one in that position.
I'm very sorry for the millions of immigrants who now risk deportation and brutal human rights violations from our immigration authorities, I'm sorry for the working class people who are now at risk for losing their healthcare, and I'm sorry for all the other oppressed people who are unsure what the coming years will bring. I wish I had done better for you. I wish our political advocate had done better for you. I wish the discourse had done better for you. We need to regroup and do better next time or the consequences will only get worse. Only two years until midterm elections.
EDIT: Right after I published this piece, my friend sent me the following image. These dumbass campaign managers should be ashamed of themselves. This is exactly what Thomas Frank's latest book was about, Listen, Liberal: Or What Ever Happened to the Party of the People. The Democratic party is systemically ignoring the concerns of the working class in order to attempt to sway Rockefeller Republicans.
Monday, October 31, 2016
The Cathars were Medieval heretics who believed they, and not the Catholic Church, were the true heirs of Christ. The Cathars were the ideologically similar to the Gnostic tradition, which predates the Nicene Council of 325 AD that drew the line between heretical and orthodox Christian belief, but they seemingly sprung from nowhere during the 10th century.
Catharism was especially popular in the south of France, which had unprecedented religious tolerance for its time and also a particularly corrupt Catholic clergy. One thing that surprised me was that the Catholic church, before resorting to violence, actually held public debates of theology in Cathar towns. It was only after they had their butts polemically handed to them that they launched first a crusade, then the Inquisition, to bring the region under the thumb of Rome.
I'm especially interested in what makes people willing to give their life for their religious belief. Thousands of Cathars were burned at the stake, and typically before a mass burning heretics were given one finally chance to reconcile themselves to the Catholic Church, but it was common for a group of 200 Cathars to all stay true to their faith and be burned together.
For someone to make that ultimate sacrifice, they must see something in their faith that is undeniably true. In the brutality of the Middle Ages, the Cathar belief that the world itself was literally hell could have been particularly appealing. This belief was so strong, that Cathars refused marriage in order to avoid bringing more babies into this hell. The Cathars also believed in egalitarianism between the sexes, which attracted a lot of women who were alienated by the misogyny of the Catholic church. In Cathar metaphysics, humans are reincarnated and any soul could be reincarnated as either a male or female, therefore sex is meaningless.
This book, however, was a rather brief overview of the entire Cathar era, and didn't go into as much detail as I would have liked on the normal day-to-day life of Cathar believers. In the future I might pick up another book on this subject.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Read the rest here.Buy Reusable DiamondsBefore I learned this trick, I was going through 12, 15 carats a day! You may spend an extra two or three grand finding diamonds that you can bear to be seen in day after day, but it is definitely worth the investment.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
- Meet 4 Bankers Who are Queering Foreclosures
- 5 Empowering Ways to Cross Picket Lines
- 9 Ways to Respect the Gender Identity of the Serfs Who Til Your Estate
- This Comic Perfectly Explains How 'Right to Work Laws' Respect Bodily Autonomy
- So What if Scissor Bill Didn't Join the Union? Here's Why Scab-Shamming is Never Feminist
- Not In My Back Yard: Why It's Triggering to Have Low-Income Housing Near My McMansion
- What Losing My Wallet Taught Me About Classism
- 6 Ways Subprime Lending Empowers Women of Color
- 29 Steps to Emotional Supporting Your Serfs During Famine
- Here it is: The Ultimate Guide to Intersectional CEO Bonuses
Bonus: Want to End Class-Based Oppression? Here's a List of 187 Words to Never Say Around the Financially-Challenged
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Tolkien admitted that Christianity influenced themes of Lord of the Rings, even while he disparaged the blatant allegory of C.S. Lewis. Like Satan, Sauron is a corrupted angelic being, and the personification of evil. Though for the characters in the story most of his deeds are done through his agents, he is also a literal person who rules over a very real place. Frodo's descent into Mordor is an intentional echo of the mythical journey to the underworld, the Hero Cycle's symbolic death. But the conflict between good and evil in the Lord of the Rings does not simply come from battling Sauron's orcs, Ringwraiths and other minions, but from battling against the corruption of one's heart. In a universe where objective morality exists, evil is committed by willfully siding the the Enemy of good. The Christian notion of temptation requires socially agreed upon sins, so that when transgressions occur, it is obvious to the one who commits them. We can look at Boromir, who at the end of the novel succumbs to the temptation of power and attempts to acquire the ring for himself, but he knows full well that the ring cannot offer him the power to protect his homeland only a temporary blindness confuses him, and when it passes he acknowledges his sin and repents. But when evil can be identified, it can also be overcome. It gives us the option of choosing righteousness and bettering ourselves as individuals.
As a secular person myself, I'm not trying to claim that either Tolkien or Martin have a superior moral worldview, but am just trying to observe them from a cultural historical perspective. It is interesting that Tolkien, who survived WWI, by all accounts a nebulous and ultimately pointless waste of human life, would believe in objective morality, and George R.R. Martin, who had a working-class but fanciful childhood in suburban New Jersey would view morality as so ambiguous. Perhaps the answer to this mystery of human nature is that objective morality is a survival technique for those who face truly horrific conflicts, but likely it is more complex.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Baldwin knows all too well that the white ego also depends on that same dignity that blacks are starved of. That's why to this day, white men laid-off from the factory, struggling to raise a family against the sink of the opiate epidemic, will hang a Confederate flag on the back of their truck. Baldwin says, whites "are trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it."
It is hard for me to see the end of this cycle, even as I find irony in Baldwin's doubt that we will see a black president in 40 years. He knows what we have to do though: build a new nation, one nation, not modeled after a fantasy of Europe, one where we don't romanticize our past, but hold a respect for life, death and most importantly struggle.
In 2016, we still seem so far from one nation, and as technology allows us to become more connected than ever before, it is also easier to cut out people and ideas we don't want to deal with. We all select the reality that we want to live in. Even when we read things that make us angry or anxious, we are selecting these out of a host of events we could feel angry or anxious about. In this world, we cloak ourselves so completely in our identities and our fears that we cannot accept the naked vulnerability that comes with trust and love. I see this in the violence at Trump rallies all around the country, and I see it in my heart.
We may have that black president that Baldwin found incredulous, but those bridges that Baldwin compelled us to build seem just as distant as ever.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
"Making the beast with two backs,"
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool,"
"To tell thee plain, I aim to lie with thee,"
"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me,"
"Thou dost infect my eyes,"
“Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit,”
"[Wine] provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance,"
"I had rather live with cheese and garlic in a windmill, far, than feed on cates and have him talk to me in any summer-house in Christendom,"
"And thou unfit for any place but hell,"
"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers,"
“Heaven truly knows that thou art false as hell.”
—Othello, Act 4, Scene 2