A recent series of posts written by a blogging friend of mine raises some serious questions. In it, he discusses ways in which many of us who mean well go completely wrong. We live in a post-Christian society, but we carry over aspects of religiosity of which we may not even be consciously aware. In seeking to be Good Liberals™, we reveal our indebtedness to the same relative framework, one held also by our ancestors. Before I introduce my larger point, I need to assert here that I am not arguing that anyone ought to hold racist ideas or that doing so is acceptable. Rather, I’m critiquing the means by which we often resort to eradicate them. Here is the first.
Jul 21 2011
Jul 18 2011
After the USA Women’s World Cup soccer team flamed out in the final minutes, I noticed a very different sort of response from ordinary people and from the media. I expected lots of disappointed criticism, be it online or in person. In a game that was the USA’s to lose, there would seem to have been much to go around. However, after the shock of the defeat had worn off, most people complimented the team for reaching the final and for its courage. This warm graciousness is extremely unfamiliar with me, so much so that it appears utterly foreign. It was fascinating to observe, on one level, even though it could not be more out-of-bounds with my own emotional response.
Jul 08 2011
The late 19th Century American novelist Henry James commented on the emergent First-wave Feminist movement in his novel The Bostonians. In 1984, James’ book was adapted into a movie. Itself a selection of the Merchant Ivory school of period piece dramas, the film promises more than it provides, but is a minor gem nonetheless. James was a skeptic of Feminism and feminists, revealing both to be nothing more a collective of than uncompromising, ideologically polarizing fussy old maids. However, the author is also highly critical of the counter-weight to these passionate reformers, the charming, but manipulative Mississippi lawyer and frustrated writer, Basil Ransome. We will be formally introduced to him later in this review.
Jun 30 2011
My father’s mother was raised in an extremely religious family. Her father, a minister in a Pentecostal church that I would best describe as Holy Roller, believed in demonic possession. Sadly, my Grandmother was stricken with a variety of physical maladies that left her constantly ill and often bedridden. Following the teachings of her upbringing, his mother dragged my father to one church after another, all in the hopes that someone could cure her. Taking the miracles of Jesus as literally true, she was certain that someone out there possessed the ability. This belief was so strong that she sometimes gave money to televangelists who promised to do the very same thing.
Jun 28 2011
While watching the Women’s World Cup in soccer today, I decided yet again to raise a familiar question. Why don’t people follow women’s sports like men’s sports? Before I even started thinking about formulating something of an answer, I decided I would not make arguments that cast the distinction in strictly biological terms. I think they exist, but I don’t think they’re nearly as integral to the issue as we might think. Our visceral reaction to the action going on before us may provide information that is far more helpful.
Jun 21 2011
We often talk about the problems of the criminal justice system, particularly as pertains to unfair treatment towards minorities and marginalized groups. I sympathize with the plight of those for whom this is a daily reality, but I admit I cannot completely understand. Many times, violence against women goes unreported or is sloppily prosecuted. And it is for this reason that I share my own story, though one needs to reverse the gender in this circumstance. The system is designed to prosecute men who harass, physically injure, or otherwise harm women. When the reverse is true, the existing framework of laws and statutes is not easily able to respond. Men are supposed to be able to handle their own problems, but women are supposed to be sheltered from them. This doesn’t mean that women aren’t vulnerable in all sorts of ways, but that it’s just as condescending to imply that women don’t harm men.
Jun 15 2011
Earlier in the week, I learned an important lesson. The effect was an abrupt about-face that revealed my own flaws and also granted me an opportunity to gain greater wisdom. For over a year, I have been actively involved in almost every aspect of the Young Adult Friend group at my Monthly Meeting. Being so closely invested in the process has provided me a sense of satisfaction and greater purpose. At long last, I have found a way to put my leadership skills to good use and, for the most part, my mental health has cooperated. And I’ve also gotten a chance to see the direct result of my hard work, which is one of the most gratifying feelings I have ever experienced in my life. Many toil for years in similar circumstances with nothing physically tangible to show for it. The ultimate credit, of course, is not mine to take but I couldn’t help but feel pride in the creation.
Jun 13 2011
Growing up, I was told that we were created in God’s image. But no one really explained the concept to me. I assumed that God was static, unchanging, and altogether perfect. To the best of my knowledge, it had always been this way. Was my behavior to resemble this as well? Any number of theological loose ends was never tied up, either from ignorance or theological neglect. Sometimes it is easier to say nothing than to risk the potential offense provided by the truth. Fast asleep is a comfortable place for many, particularly in houses of worship and everyday communities which are deathly afraid of change.
Jun 10 2011
The state of Alabama on Thursday passed the strictest illegal immigration legislation imaginable. In November, Republicans took formal control of both the state House and Senate for the first time since Reconstruction. However, this by itself was not necessarily the determining factor to ensure passage. Until this session, a majority of very conservative Democrats by in large peopled both chambers. But, back then, there were enough voices present who held other ideological views to push back against reactionary bills like this one. Even with the prior legislative balance of power, sentiments like these often found political favor. In an economically poor state desperate to find a scapegoat to explain recent financial woes, it was only a matter of time before migrant Latino workers were targeted. When all else fails, find someone different than you to blame.
Jun 08 2011
I reluctantly write about the mess that is the Anthony Weiner Story because it seems unimportant to significant issues. Or, to qualify, there are aspects of it that are pertinent, but we aren’t talking about them. We have an opportunity here towards greater understanding, if only the media narrative would reflect it. The most persistent lesson of them all is that a life in the public eye provides no privacy. The greatest aspect of the entire story of Rep. Weiner and his internet flirtations might be how internet discourse appears entirely private, but in reality could not be any less so. In another time, had Weiner exchanged pictures with random women through the mail, he might have been more easily able to cover up his behavior. Or at least it would have been easier to pay off a mistress or two. The ease of internet technology is a double edged sword. I wonder if the impulsively sexual Warren Harding, Woodrow Wilson, or Franklin Roosevelt could have been able to keep their affairs a secret in today’s world.
Jun 06 2011
Recently I attended a Quaker wedding. Having now introduced the subject of this entire post, the temptation is to add a sufficient qualifier. None of the most common phrases used sounds especially elegant. Same-sex marriage or its compliment, same-gender marriage, sounds pedantic. Gay marriage sometimes implies that a union between two homosexual people is less authentic or valid than one between a heterosexual couple. In conclusion, what I will say is that there were two grooms. And over the past nine months I have gotten to know the both of them, which was why I was put to work that day as the world’s most nervous and highly anxious usher. Friends tend to be introverted and somewhat socially awkward, and this Friend is no exception.
Jun 01 2011
While riding on the bus here in DC recently, I’ve noticed another in a series of ad campaigns by atheist, agnostic, and non-theist groups. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been particularly persistent and prominent. Their basic advertising technique displays a quotation advancing an anti-religious view from a series of important Americans throughout time. They seek to best advance a basic message that religion and government have no part. While I agree that a strict separation or wall between the two is necessary, I would not agree to remove moral teachings with a religious focus altogether from the process. Real religion and spirituality, not its watered-down, adulterated, self-serving imitation is never plentiful.