Monday, July 31, 2006
( 7:37 AM )
The Seemy Underbelly of Knowledge
I read two posts this morning on completely different blogs about the same idea: the knowlege we've gained and the words we know because of George W. Bush. Now most people wouldn't automatically associate W. with "words" and "knowledge." But think about how much vocabulary and other new information is now in your brain because of the last five years. And the point is, it's not exactly stuff we would have wanted in our brains:
Fallujah. Signing statements. Abu Ghraib.
Waterboarding. Stress positions. Free speech zones.
The theological and historical differences between Sunni and Shi'ite. How levees are constructed. Why levees fail.
These are things I knew nothing about until George W. Bush.
I've always considered gaining knowledge an indisputable good, but these pieces of the world I've come to know in the past six years have the feel of being forced into me under threat. They now carry with them a weight and a darkness.
The Ninth Ward. Haditha. Guantanamo Bay.
How much sweeter to have picked up these nuggets of geography and history as I always have, serendipitously led through a leisurely stepping stone process of one book or conversation suggesting another, and yet another, and now a couple of twists and turns ... you start out here, reading Faulkner and next you're drawn to learning about cotton production and before you know it, you're at civil rights.
Instead, in all cases above, I'd begun my acquaintance because of headlines and horrors and a screaming, driving voice in my head: There's something wrong! There's something very, very wrong! Learn about it! Fast!
This is from Susan G today over at Daily Kos. And her writing today really struck a chord with me because it's so true - so sad - but so true. The point isn't that we've learned these new things as a matter of course in our lives. The point is that these things have come upon us in the most negative way possible, corrupting our brains, forever molded into our consciousnesses.
Then over at Old Soul, Shari describes an incident with her child, bringing this issue close to home:
Out of the blue, my kid asked me this: "Mom, what is a chickenhawk?".
I was momentarily taken aback. My kid--already political at 8? OMG, was I ranting too much again when I should really have been blogging about it (yes, I know I've been silent but in the summer the days are full when school is out).
So when I asked why, the kid shrugged, saying "Oh, I just heard the word the other day". Oh dear, I thought, it was true. I was ranting again in the presence of kids, something I try to avoid. I was still a bit puzzled. I generally rant about other things, oh, like the DLC or Governor Schwarzenegger, but I can't remember the last time I even thought about chickenhawks. We don't watch TV. Where did it come from?
Since I was also distracted as well, I started rattling off the 'oh it's a person who wants war but doesn't want to fight in it' definition. At which point, the kid stops me right away.
"No, mom, I was reading about a chickenhawk which swooped up and took a mouse away". Oh, yes, I forgot about that type of chickenhawk. Hah. Mild relief.
My (perhaps naive) assumption is that most humans are in the habit of seeking out knowlege, searching for continued understanding, looking for the harmony in the notions of "what don't I know?" and "how can I know more?" But this kind of knowledge that we are carrying around now seems to be the kind that blunts our true natures and our hopes. It is the kind of knowledge that corrupts and corrodes. Susan G has the perfect analogy:
When I was 20, I was in a serious car accident. I fractured my back, collar bones, four ribs. I'd ruptured my kidney, I'd had a chunk of flesh the size of a Girl Scout cookie ripped out of my knee. I was hospitalized more than a month, and I'd been proud of being reasonably stoic and properly grateful to have survived.
The day I was released from the hospital, I went home and took a shower, the first in nearly six weeks. As I lathered up - a luxury I can still savor in memory after weeks and weeks of bed-bound sponge baths - my fingers found, underneath my arm and along my shoulder blade, embedded pieces of gravel and glass that had not been properly debrided. I realized they were going to be a part of me forever because my flesh had already healed over them. [...] I think what grieved me the most was that they were on the hidden underside, the most tender part of my underarm and back, and that although they were harmless, I'd spend a lifetime remembering, every time I bathed, the precise stretch of road they came from and how they got there.
I feel like George W. Bush and his policies are gravel and glass in my brain. Forever.
Something to think about. Or to try not to.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
( 6:26 AM )
Army of One (eventually)
An article appears today about a 30-year old 4-year soldier attached to the 82nd Airborne as an arabic translator was discharged because he is gay. Under the "don't ask, don't tell." one of the first major travesties of the Clinton administration (I may be liberal, but I'm not an idiot), a member of the military will lose his/her career if they are outed as being gay, whether it is them who says it or someone else. In this case, 30-year old Bleu Copas didn't tell - so someone else did. And because of that, he has lost his military career. Not only that, he's been given the scarlet letter ("G!") on his discharge papers.
At a time when the U.S. military is struggling with recruitment and respect, especially the army, the government continues to excercise a prejudiced policy that is actually cripling the military's ability to function well:
More than 11,000 service members have been dismissed under the policy, including 726 last year — an 11 percent jump from 2004 and the first increase since 2001. [...]
But the GAO also noted that nearly 800 dismissed gay or lesbian service members had critical abilities, including 300 with important language skills. Fifty-five were proficient in Arabic, including Copas, a graduate of the Defense Language Institute in California.
Discharging and replacing them has cost the
Pentagon nearly $369 million, according to the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
It's a ridiculous policy. Many retired generals have spoken out against it. But it's long past time to argue the discrimination argument (these guys are voluntarily serving our country at the risk of their own lives!!). Frankly, by this time it's a national security issue. If the government says that listening to our phone calls and tracking Americans' banking transactions are tactics necessary to preserving national security. Surely cutting off hundreds of military personnel who are essential and rare - especially arabic translators - hurts this country.
Of course, I suppose if the government was worried about things like being able to translate arabic, there'd probably not be 2800 dead coalition soldiers and 100's of thousands of dead Iraqi people right now. But who's counting?
No one at this point, apparently.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
( 1:02 PM )
Well, that was a bit longer of a break than I expected it to be. I never thought I'd be away for 6 months - but my first year of teaching high school did its best to kick my arse. I triumphed, however, and am proud to say that I am not only happy to be teaching high school social studies, I'm not too bad at it either. It's been a long 3 years with grad school and starting teaching. But I feel like I've reached "young veteran" status now, and am really looking forward to this coming year. One of the best parts of teaching is the summer vacation gig. Which now, after 2 1/2 weeks in Ireland and then a week hanging with my best girlfriend of 20 years, I am now enjoying to the fullest.
It's strange coming back to blogging after 6 months. the Blog world has changed a lot - but then again, not so much. I of course read blogs, I just didn't blog myself. Now it's like starting over, since probably no one comes here to read anymore. I'll be making the rounds of my blog pals and saying hi. It has really been something I've missed doing. My blog is more of a venting resource, and I think that's enough reason to blog.
In the last six months, things have only gotten worse. It was as if all the things we've been talking about and examining the last 5 years have gone into overdrive. The escalation of bad stuff coming out of the US government and the bad karma its producing around the world is really amazing. Having just seen it all from the European viewpoint while on holiday, it's truly bizarre to come back to the fishbowl that is the U.S. right now. More on that later.
Hope anyone who catches this is doing well.
Tell one! Tell all!
The Mama is back!
( 7:36 AM )