A recent article in The New York Times about Quaker schools has ginned up no small controversy within the Religious Society of Friends. The association between individual Quaker meetings and churches and affiliated schools has long been contentious. And it has been contentious in meetings and churches across the country. This issue is especially commonplace on the East Coast, which is historically where most Quakers settled and lived. The Times article correctly notes that these schools have often become bastions of higher income, not of Quaker teaching. Quaker principles often include self-sufficiency, making do, and keeping matters simple.
Dec 12 2010
Obama’s Totalitarian Vision of a Censored Society
You may recall that Richard Nixon’s declared “enemy” was Daniel Ellseberg, who released “The Pentagon Papers” that finally brought to public light the lies, corruption, and futility behind the Vietnam War. Nixon was so pissed about this, that he formed his own private CIA-hit team, called “The Plumbers”, made up of CIA “Bay Of Pigs” assassins (and Kennedy assassination participants), E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis, etc. to go around and ensure that any leaks were plugged up. Of course, the Daniel Ellsberg burglary, and the Watergate break in then followed, which led to Nixon’s own downfall — something today’s Congress would let pass by without a thought, in the today’s unspeakable age where: Human torture and preemptive War are good things in eyes of The United States Government (as long as we’re the ones doing it, or Israel, or the British Oligarchy, or Saudi Arabia).
Well the Pentagon Papers of today, are WikiLeaks, and guess who’s side President Obama is on? That’s right, the same side as Richard Nixon.
Obama made a public statement to Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan where he was quoted as: “Expressing his regrets for the deplorable action by WikiLeaks“.
Yeah….in Obama’s World, truth-telling is really “deplorable”, and not our criminal and corrupt Foreign Policy, our Worldwide mass-violence, and his utter waste of Trillions of dollars of American citizens money — who must instead, according to Obama, be robbed of their own Social Security lifeline in order to “keep the debt under control” — while he also hands out over $700 Billion dollars to multi-millionaires, and tells the Democratic Party: “take it or leave it” (who’s the real treasonist here?).
This is a tragic statement about our Country, but hardly surprising since President Obama has also happily agreed with Dick Cheney and George Bush (his Foreign Policy role models) supporting the elimination of Haebeus Corpus, elimination of our Miranda Rights, elimination of the Posse Comitatus Act, support for secret brutal CIA Renditions (i.e. the outsourcing of Human Torture), broad based Government Wiretapping and data gathering on U.S. Citizens that would make Richard Nixon blush, and the right of the executive to now kill and assassinate any U.S. Citizen without any charges or crimes ever being demonstrated … on mere suspicion alone.
This is President’s Obama worldview.
The President also called Mexican President Felipe Calderon as well to make the same statement as well, as part of an effort to put pressure on Foreign Governments to continue to scapegoat, abuse, jail, harass, torture, or possibly assasinate the truth-teller.
Obama has also turned Attorney General Eric Holder loose to prosecute — not the War Crimes committed by criminal government officals whom we all pay the salaries of — but instead to prosecute truth-teller Julian Assange, and by using “all the tools” at his disposal (e.g.: assassination efforts underway).
This is President’s Obama worldview.
Support of WikiLeaks may be the most constructive thing that all of us ordinary people can do now, to bring about pressure upon the ruling Elite class, and expose their genocidal and monetary crimes.
Dec 07 2010
The Fallacy of Privileged Activism
I think what concerns me most about American society these days is how so many wish to commodify everything, especially other people. The subject has weighed heavily upon me recently because I’m going to get married fairly soon. I’ve been reflecting back upon the history of those I’ve dated as a means of judging larger trends in my development. There were a few instances where I was valued more for my potential net worth than for my heart. It is one thing to see the possibility of personal growth in a partner, but it’s another thing altogether to see them as a stock portfolio which has yet to mature. People are not savings bonds or bank accounts. The dreams of some involve the acquisition of funds, and to them, marriage is the perfect merger between conglomerates. “Our” dreams are, in fact, “my” dreams with your financial assistance. Woe be unto those whose economic star does not rise.
Aug 29 2010
Only Glenn Beck’s God doles out your Rights and Privileges
Today Glenn Beck claims to be “Restoring Honor” …
Is it about “Restoring Honor”? for whom? for which slight?
Or is it about “Restoring Privilege to God’s enlightened few“?
Glenn Beck Confirms That Your Rights Come From God
Glynnis MacNicol — Mar 16, 2010
I don’t know if you’ve read the Declaration of Independence but you don’t have the power to grant people rights. You don’t create them, you don’t enhance them. They are not yours…In case you missed it “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”
Who the hell do you think you are Congress? You are not God.
Or put more succinctly, as I just heard Glenn Beck say TODAY on FOX, in re-running of a previous show:
“Government does NOT grant you Rights — God does” …
“If there is No God, that grants you Rights — Who grants you rights?”
I dunno. Fox News?
Aug 25 2010
Defeating Privilege, Challenging Assumptions
I’ve written before about the rather limited reach of privilege. A conversation with a fellow writer and friend from Australia showed me yet another area where a lack of infrastructure, wealth, education, and crucial connections leaves people out. Oversights like these which yell out for alleviation are all too common, but not terribly sexy in the way only a massive disaster can be. While we were discussing LGBT issues, she mentioned a topic very enlightening and thought-provoking. To preface, my friend identifies as bisexual herself and so she listened intently, and with much interest, to the words and phrases I’d been throwing around regarding my own identity and its many nuances. Her immediate response raised another issue pertinent towards the need to spread resources beyond our liberal borders.
Jul 19 2010
Movin’ On Up
The past several days I’ve been musing on the chosen strategies employed by the privileged and the well-educated to solve societal problems. In particular, I’ve been contemplating the idea of poverty. As is typical for me, I’ve been seeking to find intersections and similarities between seemingly divergent topics, all in the hopes of eliminating confusion among everyone. Sometimes we disagree because we inadvertently work at cross-purposes to each other. The anecdote to follow illustrates how social class muddies the waters quite considerably, and how in the process we often find ourselves talking past one another. I’ve found this exercise personally helpful in many instances, and I tell it now in the hopes that readers might feel the same.
Jun 21 2010
A Right to Privacy Depends on Privilege
Today I scheduled an appointment with a GP for my yearly checkup. I’m not physically sick or injured at the moment, but I figured it would be worthwhile setting up an appointment anyway. While on Medicaid here in the District, an insured person is required to establish a particular primary case physician. This PCP is based at a specific location and is, of course, the person one sees in the event of a serious illness. I had meant to do this long before now and finally got around to it.
Apr 09 2010
Student Sexual Assault Safety Depends Partially on Privilege
For years, student activists have fought to combat the disturbing numbers of rapes and sexual assaults which routinely occur on college campuses. Actual statistics are tough to come by because many victims are too intimidated and scared to report them, which is often compounded by apathetic university administrators who grant only cursory attention to the matter or try to sweep things under the rug. Colleges and Universities are unfortunately run like businesses these days, and none of them wants to entertain even the faintest hint of scandal. Fighting for tuition money, grants, and endowments trump keeping female students safe and protected. The amount of administrative staff in higher education is staggering, and no one wants to stop piling on layer after layer of middle management, even when most of it is entirely unnecessary.
In any case, props to the students at American University in Washington, DC, who have recently fought back against an offensive column (or two) in their campus paper by mobilizing to stand united against rape apologists.
Much of the protest centers around this particular passage, written by columnist Alex Knepper in the AU student newspaper, The Eagle.
Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry “date rape” after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger.
“Date rape” is an incoherent concept. There’s rape and there’s not-rape, and we need a line of demarcation. It’s not clear enough to merely speak of consent, because the lines of consent in sex – especially anonymous sex – can become very blurry. If that bothers you, then stick with Pat Robertson and his brigade of anti-sex cavemen! Don’t jump into the sexual arena if you can’t handle the volatility of its practice!
A previous passage noted, as well, that
Feminist religious dogma, long ago disposed of by neuroscientists and psychologists, states that men are essentially born as eunuchs, only to have wicked masculinity imposed on them by an evil society. This is usually presented as “social construction theory”.
I am understandably pleased to observe such an outpouring of righteous indignation and with it a desire to push back and push back hard. Still, I am also struck that it takes a college flush full of money, privilege, and students already inclined to activism to set up such an elaborate response in the first place. Offensive as the passages are, I can at least follow the author’s “logic”, even though I disagree with it strongly. As someone who is not a native of Planet Progressive, I reflect back on my own upbringing in a solidly conservative state, where, to refer back to Knepper’s column, no one talks about social construction theory, even in conversation with fellow students, nor does anyone acknowledge or have even the faintest notion of why it is offensive to use the term hermaphrodite in place of intersex.
As for me, when I was in college, I was not privy to these sorts of dialogues. And, for that matter, most students now enrolled in schools across the country are not, either. I attended a state school which gave perfunctory and short-lived attention to topics like educating men about precisely what constituted consent, and never spoke as any unified voice. LGBT students were greeted usually with a shrug, and it took years of effort to even establish same-sex partner benefits for university employees. I do recall that a scandal broke during my time there involving an early enrollment student who began her freshman year at age fifteen. She was then later revealed to have been frequenting the beds of athletes. Though the sexual contact was consensual, it was still statutory rape due to the female student nonetheless being under the age of consent. As is typical, the matter was dealt with internally and invisibly until the parents filed suit. Even then, once the matter became public, there were no protests, raised fists, or plans among the student body to go to the news media and raise hell. Most people were ambivalent to the matter. The lawsuit stalled and was eventually thrown out of court. Among many it has been forgotten altogether.
But to draw a contrast, I would expect nothing less than this sort of coordinated protest from a place like American, but again, I can’t help but wish I’d see it in areas of the country not quite so blue and not quite so well off. This is not to say that women in predominantly liberal, highly competitive, and affluent schools don’t face the chance of being date raped or assaulted on campus. That risk, unfortunately, never goes away completely, but the odds do increase dramatically when the framework meant to counter sexual assault and rape simply does not exist or exists so weakly as to become ineffectual. A program designed to accomplish this need not be as detailed and exacting as what American University is now doing, and indeed, a school with a much more modest budget could not begin to mimic that of a wealthier institution.
Being that I live in Washington, DC, and associate with several American students and employees, I know for a fact that the student who wrote the columns in the first place purely meant to provoke a response, not necessarily out of some inward conviction in his supposed cause. Taken this way, he was little more than a troll, and we all know how trolls love to needle us just to see us roar in response. Even though the writer might not have meant what he said in totality, I still think it’s important that the students have adopted an important cause and are fighting to advance it. Again, I think it is imperative of them to spread the message to other schools across the country if they wish to fulfill their idealistic ambitions. It honestly breaks my heart to see just how much of that which is proposed and adopted in blue circles stays there and never leaves. Being that I grew up in a red state, I always feel somehow slighted when I see clear-cut evidence of all the things that money can provide with a snap of the fingers. This is bold evidence of classism and one of the deepest ironies of all is that it is on full display even in efforts designed to improve conditions for marginalized people whose voices have been ignored or silenced.
Mar 23 2010
Do Republicans even know What Socialism means?
Building on the President’s Health Care Agenda
The President’s vision is the right one, […] Congress should enact specific policy changes that are consistent with that vision and that would fulfill its promises. However, Congress should be bolder than the White House and broaden the scope of change well beyond the President’s specific policy recommendations by:
— Expanding the proposed tax provisions to cover all health plans, not just HSA-qualified plans;
— Encouraging health insurance portability through individual ownership, a defined-contribution system, and establishment of a consumer-based “health exchange” marketplace; and
— Transforming the health care market into a more consumer-based system in which individuals are empowered to take direct control of their health care decisions.
Nina Owcharenko, 05/11/06
That is the advice from the Conservative Think-Tank — the Heritage Foundation!
AND the President they are talking about — is George W. Bush!
SO … a Health Exchange Marketplace = Marxist Socialism ???
Feb 13 2010
Breaking Free of the Bubble
If we were to be fair with ourselves, we would admit that, compared to most of the rest of the world, we really do have it good. As I say this, I recognize that statements such as these have been set forth multiple times to scold those who feel no desire to contribute to some worthy cause or endeavor. I’m not really out to highlight an issue or to request a donation, nor do I seek to appeal to your latent sense of guilt. Rather, I do ask for your sober contemplation. What I say now is designed to encourage discussion and discourage argument. We have enough back-and-forth as it is and we waste so much of our energies and ourselves in the process, passion better spent focused on different avenues.
All of us live in one bubble or another. The wealthier and more privileged we are, the greater and more exclusive the bubble. Growing up in the South, as I did, my parents and the parents of my peers most often had been born into solidly working class families. It had only been through their hard work and a resulting favorable economic climate that they’d had the ability to achieve social mobility, and in so doing scale one class up the proverbial ladder. Now that I live in a city where I encounter on a regular basis people my own age who have come from a long line of relative wealth, their views and mine are often as different as our priorities. I find it quite difficult to not be jealous and envious of, for example, their multiple trips abroad to Germany or their ability to attend an elite institution (or two) of higher learning. Still, I recognize that compared to many who live in the state of my birth, I had it very easy.
When we talk about Haiti, Darfur, or the Middle East, all the usual conduits to direct money and financial assistance fall easily in place. Yet, it is rather telling that it takes a catastrophe before we give even half a second to contemplate what life must be like for those in the Third World. Whether we admit it or not, a hierarchy of need exists, and the simultaneous blessing and curse of having our own basic needs met on an almost constant basis is that we can afford to have trivial, tedious arguments of insidious intent. And what to what overwhelming question does this lead us? It’s tough to say, really, but whatever it may be is frequently useless and thoroughly counter-productive.
As for our friends in dire need, their daily thoughts tend to be whether they have enough food to eat, or whether their lives will be in danger tomorrow, or how they’ll manage to raise their children in a harsh, unforgiving environment. To them, our arguments would seem not just ludicrous but also completely incomprehensible. Many have talked about this concept before, too, I recognize. If I believed we had gotten the message before now I wouldn’t bother reintroducing it. To be sure, I am aware that some do take this matter to heart. These are the ones who jump at the chance to volunteer to serve the less fortunate in other countries. I admire and appreciate their devotion. I do also take to heart the often-conservative criticism that we spend so much time and energy temporarily boosting the stature of devastated foreign countries while simultaneously neglecting our own poor and downtrodden. We would certainly go far to document the lives of our own needy beyond the occasional human interest story or anecdote. It’s not so much where we devote our energy as it is a question of our general mindset, which must not just be a single-minded and highly time-limited desire to cross off the phrase “humanitarian effort” from our Socially Conscious™ checklist.
The problem with bubbles, of course, is that bubbles isolate. They are impermeable. They keep information from getting out and in so doing keep necessary strategies and potential means of assistance in the hands of and for the use of a small, fortunate few. In discussion with those of other nationalities, I note that they have at times expressed no small frustration with us that we in this country seem to believe that nothing happens of much importance unless it happens here, or has some direct relevance to America and Americans. If our ultimate goal was complete equality, as we say it is, then we’d make a general effort to take into account the unique stories, news, and issues of other regions and countries of the world. Put this way, these very pertinent topics wouldn’t have to be consolidated into a tab labeled “World News” on one’s browser, or reduced to a niche interest targeted to a niche interest group.
What we deal with primarily is a discrepancy involving money and means. Here in Northwest DC, for example, some have spent years bickering about the location of a new library and whether it should be granted zoning rights and the ability to finally break ground. Common sense alone would have dictated that the existing temporary library space is much too small to accommodate the number of patrons who use its services, meaning that the construction of the building can’t get underway soon enough. Whereas, if I turn my attention towards the Southeast in the direction of Anacostia, I am faced with the blight and decay of dire poverty—with it a lack of basic services. Here, where I live, there are many restaurants and grocery stories I encounter on even the most modest of walks up and down the main thoroughfare. There, one is hard pressed to find more than one restaurant, and grocery stores are either severely limited, or nowhere to be found. This underscores how finding common means of comparison is difficult enough between people of similar interest, but in this way, both residents speak completely different languages.
I fail to take into account that many of us genuinely try to do the right thing. I’ve seen it for myself, many times. I’m not stating that one ought to drop everything, give all one has to the poor, and move to an impoverished country. But what I am saying is that once we leave the bubble, we don’t need the novelty of a country or region in crisis to recognize that until our efforts here on these shores are a success, we simply won’t have the infrastructure and the methodology in place to give better aid and assistance to foreign countries in need. If that on-going War on Poverty is ever won and won forever, it will start here, then spread to other places, not the other way around. Speaking American English in all its varieties and variations is tough enough, with so many regional, ethnic, and economic distinctions. Speaking the native tongue of another place is a daunting, if not completely impossible task until we’ve found our own means of translation.
Dec 13 2009
To solve the climate change problem, end the class divide
In honor of the diary queue which is going on now on Orange, I’ve decided to put this diary together, perhaps too quickly. Its thesis is this: if we are to find an effective solution for the climate change situation, we will have to end the division of humanity into social classes. This won’t take overnight; but its main impediment at present is a lack of unity across social classes, and that can be resolved.
(Crossposted at Orange)
Dec 08 2009
Draft Board Realities and Gender-Based Arguments
This post is written in response to a very well-crafted argument against the resumption of military conscription. What I will say is that I have engaged in hypothetical discussions at times about what the resumption of a draft would produce in reality, versus what goals and reforms we might assume would transpire as a result. I’m not entirely sure that I agree that those who advocate the return of conscription are making specious or at best hypocritical arguments. Though I am opposed to war in all forms, one cannot disagree that war shapes so much of our consciousness and influences who we are as both Americans and humans to a degree that we are sometimes unaware of its complete impact. War and warfare is that pervasive and it is that enmeshed in who we are as a people that merely criticizing it from the outside may not simply be sufficient.
In another online forum, I suggested that perhaps if women were included in the draft that their presence might successfully overturn gender-based inequalities and begin to reform Patriarchal excesses. A previous generation of Feminists believed that the way to be recognized as the equals of men was to de facto refine the idea of masculinity by building it into its own image and idealized notion. Feminists of today have taken special care to embrace their femininity and sex while simultaneously redefining both in an effort to also reshape repressive ideas of masculinity and manhood. Gender as a social construct has become especially problematic to many, since transgender and intersex rights have turned conventional gender norms and gender arguments completely upside down. If applied to current draft regulations, it could easily raise a huge to-do.
The truth of the matter is that if a draft were resumed today, only men would be drafted. My argument, which again was set forth purely as food for thought, was that if women wished for full equality with men then they ought to seriously consider lobbying to be included as part of the process. My rationale for this was that women have for far too long been seen purely as keepers of the hearth and home and that their presumed status solely as nurturing figures and caregivers is restrictive and based on assumption, rather than reality. Another huge can of worms that goes along with this is that if Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell were ever to be revoked and if LGBTs were allowed to serve openly in the armed forces, the draft laws as written would apply to gay men, but not to lesbians. One gets in thornier territory than that when the question of trans men, trans women, and intersex individuals enters the picture. When we are only now beginning to confront the fact that what constitutes “male” and what constitutes “female” is far more fluid than any of us could have ever before believed, then we see what happens when the gender binary falls unforgivably short.
I seek not to seem ignorant or unaware of draft board realities. My own father did not serve in Vietnam because of his high draft number. By sheer luck, the highest number called for his group was 125 and, since the system focused on date of birth to determine draft status, his announced number 215 worked out in his favor. Still, Dad was labeled 1-A (available for military service) and taking no chances he continued to pursue a college degree and served for a time as a state trooper, since both of these options made it unlikely that he would be forced to serve in combat. I do recognize that if those times were our own, then as now, those unable to afford college or so poor that they could not use the privilege of middle class or upper class affluence to their benefit, advantages that most of us take for granted—they would be the first to go. My grandfather used his business connections with the people at the local county draft board to ensure that his sons did not go to Southeast Asia. In business, in politics, and in all of capitalism, ultimately it comes down to precisely who you know.
Assuming the draft was (God forbid) ever resumed, perhaps a brand new group of underprivileged souls would be sent off to fight and die. It’s not as though gay men live and are born only in affluent cities, states, or regions. Nor is homosexuality a phenomenon relegated purely to Whites. Perhaps the recent transitioned trans man, fresh from top surgery finds zirself for the first time as a prime target to be forced to fight for a country that still hasn’t quite acknowledged the unique struggles of transgenders. One would hope that if this situation were ever to come to pass that it would not force trans men to be disinclined to undergo the process of claiming a gender of which they were not assigned at birth while desperately seeking to feel authentic to who they are inside. One would also hope that resentment would not build within the gay community due to the unfortunate fact that gay men could be sent off to die but gay women could not.
One now understands why Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, for all its flaws, is still in force. But I do understand my history, as well, and I know that the Twenty-Sixth Amendment raised the uniform voting age in this country from 21 to 18. A compelling argument raised by young Vietnam War Protesters, which stated that young men who were being drafted and sent to die in the jungles were without the right to vote in or vote out the legislators who were in charge of making that awful decision—this push led to resolute action. Quite unlike the legislative logjam we are now facing today in other reform measures, the process of enactment and ratification was not a particularly contentious one and it didn’t take long for the amendment to take effect. When I consider today how many eighteen to twenty year olds only vote when the name Obama is on the ballot, it really makes me sad. Yet, at least that right exists, and at least combined effort towards good produced satisfactory results. We might learn from that when it comes down to pushing our own unique ends and aims. If we are going to increase the scope and span of conscription, an act so unfair and so completely unjustified as to border on complete evil, perhaps we might be forced to learn some lessons and to confront the hypocrisies that don’t merely influence some, but influence all.