Friday, July 11, 2008

I am legion, July 11 edition

I am bi-literate/lingual after many, many years of hard work: Barack Obama this week is urging young people to learn another language. He suggests Spanish, which is a good idea considering the U.S.'s changing demographics. Chinese would also be good; so would Arabic, really. Man, just learn anything, Americans! Rudolph Giuliani, however, seemed to misunderstand Obama's target audience (youths who know English as a first language) completely and somehow accused the candidate of encouraging immigrants to not learn English.
OK, so 1: Huh? and B: I'd like to know how many languages English-only proponents speak.

Obama's suggestion is totally reasonable and practical: Learn your second or third or fourth or whatever language when you're young. Kids, they learn languages great. Adults, not so great. My mom started learning English in grade school and so when she started using it as an adult, she picked it up great. Me, a product of the American public school system (of which I'm actually a fan, I'm really more criticizing the era, not the system itself) had my two years of German in high school which amounted to nichts. At 33 I began minoring in Spanish and after four years of really hard, constant work I can now read novels and futbol articles online and understand a good portion of what I hear, and totally murder español when I try to speak it. But I got it. That's something. But learning a language as an adult is hard, man. You have to work at it constantly. Like every day and nearly every minute. And if you're not fortunate enough to have that time (because, you're totally wasting your time by, I dunno, working and mak
ing a living) then getting your second  language will be nearly imposible. If we're serious about raising English literacy and fluency among immigrants, we need to find ways for adult to learn the language that can be incorporated into life. 

I am all for restructuring the American family: A blogger at DailyKos talks about her dad, who recently got laid off from his auto industry job. She worries about what will happen to him now, since he was approaching retirement and has virtually few new-industry skills. She's worried about him and others in his position. Like most dads, she says, he worked three jobs to make sure she would never want for anything. 

It's a very touching post, but I couldn't help but wonder what the blogger is doing for her dad, if she would be willing to work three jobs to make sure that he would never want for anything as well. It's an interesting phenom in the U.S. that our parents take care of us, but we're not expected to do the same back for them. I know that my traditional, Midwestern conservative EuroAmerican  family members would have fits over the impropriety of the idea that
, if a time of need like this arose, that we pull together so that we kids helped take care of them; my Asian family would completely expect the family to join ranks and support them. The U.S. nuclear family is so individually structured, I don't know if that kind of extended support is possible. We'd need to rethink the way we do family, outside of the nuclear idea. 

But this isn't just a non-Western idea, it's very American South, too. It's not unusual for families to live together and support one another in the South. Maybe it's not the American family model, it's just the American consumerist/hyperindividualist family model that we need to dismantle. 

I am discovering hypermiling: Kinda sorta. I recently discovered that the mileage on my car went up in a big way if I drove 60 or 65 mph instead of 75 or 80 mph. No brainer, there. (Hey, I stay in the right lane. Freakin' pass me already.) Also, got more conscientious about parking, idling and route-planning. But here's the difference between me and a regular hypermiler: I drive a Toyota Echo; a lot of them drive an SUV. So when I boost my mileage, that means I'm squeezing about 500 miles out of one 10-gallon tank of gas, and they're getting .... ugh, I don't even want to think.

I am a fan of the barefoot shoes: I hate wearing shoes; if I had my way I'd live on a city on the beach where shoes were option. I hate the way shoes feel on my feet, I hate the way I have 
to walk in shoes. So in summers I ditch socks and wear flipflops as much as possible. So I was
 really interested in a recent New York Times magazine article about how shoes are bad for our feet. We're just not evolved to walk in shoes, the article says. People have trouble with walking in barefoot because over time we adapt to walking in shoes, so when we walk barefoot we walk around like we're wearing shoes. But now there are shoes being made to simulate barefoot walking, and I bought a pair yesterday, the Vibram FiveFingers shoe. And they roooooock. OK, so they're odd looking, but it really feels like
 walking around barefoot. Take that, no shoes, no service. I'm gonna be wearing these shoes constantly. 

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I am a fan of what being PC really means

A couple of years back, I took a class on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The students in the class were majority non-white and, nonthreatening Other that I seemed to be, the EuroAmerican students would invariably nervously confess to me about their fear of "accidentally saying the N-word" in class. 

(I swear to Gawd I don't know how you "accidentally" say any racial slur. But anyway ... )

One woman, a very, very sweet white woman of the "can't we all just get along" variety, anxiously admitted to me that she was just trying so hard to be PC that she knew she was going to slip up and say the N-word. She was so nervous about it that she was a jittery, anxious mess the whole time. 

Again, I just don't understand this. Outside of this class, she seemed to me to be a very good person who cares about other people. So why should she have to worry about 'being PC'? If we're trying to 'be PC' then that means we're more worried about ourselves and how we look, instead of hurting the people we're talking about, right? Wouldn't using the 'right'  -- that is, nonhateful/hurtful -- words come naturally if we're concerned about the people and not about guarding the way we want to think?

You'd think. And yet ... 

Someone recently told me that he overheard someone in his office loudly defending the use of the word "slant-eyes" to describe Asian people. After all, that's the way he always referred to him, and no one could make him say anything differently.

I wondered if that guy would have said that if I had been in that office. But then -- again, racial spy that I am -- he'd have to have figured out that I was actually one of them slant-eyes, and I'm not sure that he's that observant. But of course, Southern politeness probably would have prevented him from doing so (and that's another thing -- I was always taught that manners must come from within, that they teach you how to show respect for other people, not a façade we put on to make ourselves look better or save ourselves from awkward situations. And yet, maybe my mom and grandma was all old school about that). A good rule of PCness is: If you wouldn't say that if the person that word/phrase refers to is standing right next to you, then it's not PC. But then, that rule still just goes after the tongue and not the mind. And you know what ol'Yeshua of Nazareth said, it ain't what goes in, but what comes out. It ain't what's in the stomach, it's what's in the heart.

I just don't know how "principles" that are obviously hurtful can ever be held above flesh and blood people. If what we say -- and especially what we think -- hurts another person, why would we want to keep saying/thinking like that? What does it say about the way we really feel about people, how we regard and respect them? While I loved Barack Obama's race speech and that it attempted to get us to talk about race, I really feel like what it did was make most of us really aware of how painful the subject is and what treacherous territory it is to navigate (as demonstrated perfectly by John Steward and Larry Wilmore on The Daily Show!).  

All 'PC' language comes with a human face. That's all I know. 

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I Heart Matt Taibbi

I've been having Obama faith-fatigue lately, not only because he actually can talk about his faith but everyone seems so dang interested in it. Check it out, I'm sure he's the only candidate in the world who gets scrutiny for being a Muslim and the wrong kind of Christian all in the same news cycle. 

So I was pleased to see a few articles -- finally! -- about McCain. Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi (who wrote one of my favorite pieces about him going undercover at a John Hagee weekend boot camp) has a piece in a recent Rolling Stone about John McCain and the people who love him. (Full-Metal McCain: Haunted by Vietnam, the one-time maverick has transformed himself into just another liberal-bashing fearmonger). Best part: when asked who his favorite author is, McCain names Joel Osteen. 
Standing at the meeting, I didn't write Osteen's name down in my notebook -- apparently because my brain refused on some level to accept that McCain had actually said it. Of all the vile, fake, lying-ass, money-grubbing shyster scumbags on the face of this planet, there is perhaps none more loathsome than Osteen, a human  haircut with plastic, baseball-size teeth who has made a fortune selling the appalling only-in-America idea that terrestrial greed is actually a form of Christian devotion. "God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us," Osteen once wrote. This is the revolting, snake-oil-selling dickhead that John McCain actually chose to pimp as number one on his list of inspirational authors. So much for "go, sell everything you have and give to the poor" and all that other hippie crap from the New Testament.

I once watched Osteen, just for shits. I actually saw him reprimand a couple for praying that a dining room set would go on sale for them. God's more powerful than a sale, he said. Pray that God will get you the money to buy it retail.

Osteen's god obviously doesn't understand the thrill of getting a really good deal. It's sometimes enough to make me speak in tongues. Halelujah. 

Ch-ch-ch-changes ...

Yes, I've retitled the blog. After all the recent musing I've been doing about names, I'm trying out a new identity for both the blog and myself.

The new title, "What Are You?", is the question that multiracial/ethnic people and people who are classified as "Others" get asked -- and, quite honestly -- ask themselves. This question has variations, such as "Where are you from, no before that, where are you really from?" and, for me specifically, "What tribe are you?" and my sisters, "¿De donde es usted?"

Which is not to say it's bad to ask these questions. It's all about context. If it's one of the first questions out of your mouth when you meet someone, you need to ask yourself why you're asking that question. Why do you need to know? Trust me, if you hang out with that person long enough, you'll find out. It will come up. If you're friends and you pay attention, you'll find out. Finding out about the souls of people around you are gems that need to be unearthed with care, not strip-mined for speed and efficiency. It's about them, not you.

Now, if you're at, say, diversity training or something and one of the exercises are about deconstructing your heritage, then it might be OK to ask. Context. Good rule of middle-finger: Golden Rule. How'd you like it if you got this question? Wouldn't you wonder why it mattered?

This question, and questions like these, are attempts to put people in a box so we know how to react to them. It's why people round these parts ask, "What church do you go to?" Because we need to know if they go to our kind of church or one of the other churches.

Personally, I really think this is a question that we all could stand to ask ourselves, about almost anything. What are you? What are you really? And how do you know you are what you are? How could you back that up? What makes you sure?

For example, the "What Are You, religion edition": I want to say that I'm a christian, but I don't really believe in that whole Christ divinity thing. So am I a christian? But I like Jesus, or Yeshua, as my pastor keeps calling him, and I like his teachings. And I'm a big fan of Christmas and Easter, culturally speaking. But I really hate capitalizing third-person personal pronouns. So am I a christian? Well ... Yes. Because that's how I identify. Today.

But I gotta keep wrestling with it. It changes. And how elastic in my definition can I get before I ditch the identity completely? And is it my definition, or someone else's?

This is one reason why I'm in seminary.

The ID change is me being cheeky. We're finishing up Revelation in Bible class at church, and I'm reading Catherine Keller's God and Power: Counter-Apocalyptic Journeys, and she was talking about the mother-maiden-crone imagery in Revelation, and called the whore of Babylon Babs. Now, my sister used to call me Babs, because it's a diminutive for my real name, and I haaaaaated it because it sounded like a nickname of an elderly rich woman who wore pearls and drank hot tea out of silver service sets. And my sister and her friends knew that and they tormented me with it (and still do, actually). About a year ago, however, I discovered that my 20-something friends at college were calling me Babs, affectionately, because it sounded cute and hip to them. And I wanted to get upset about it, but I couldn't because they meant to harm to me the way my sister did. So I embraced the name and the bad memories that came with it, too. And I started thinking that we overcome our evils by receiving them, welcoming them, not pushing them away and grinding them into the ground.

And for all the rage against empire that John of Patmos was screaming out, he didn't check his own imperial oppression against the women in his society. And today, when the consumerism associated with the whore -- and the rigid sex roles placed on men and women in our society's and John's -- is one way of oppressing us all, I think it's time to pull a Dante and go into Babylon so we can overturn all empire.

So Babalon I am for the moment. And it goes with my profile photo, which is graffiti from México that reads "If we don't think differently, nothing will change." That's apocalypto in a nutshell.

(Who Discovered) America?

I bought the VotoLatino Benefit Album off iTunes this week, a diverse collection (15 songs for $3.99!)of incredible music by Latin@ artists who sing about patriotism; that is, loving your country despite its flaws and knowing that you belong there even when people tell you that you don't.

Celebrating the Fourth with open eyes. Estas letras brought to ustedes by the funky goodness that is Ozomatli.
I heard her story from across the sea,
There was never one as fair, lovely as she.
With sun soaked skin and eyes of green,
With all kindness and grace of a queen.
I set sail into a cold, dark sky.
I had to see this beauty with my own eyes.
I crossed the ocean in a tiny ship
With her image in my mind and her name on my lips. I set.

Ah, America.

I found her standing upon the shore.
She was everything I dreamed of and so much more.
I felt a love that I’ve never known
And I knew I had to make her my own.
She was light of the night. She was dark as the night.
I fell under her spell, couldn’t tell wrong from right. I set.

Ah, America.
She breathed new life inside of me.
A whole new world she gave to me.
Surrendered all she had to me,
Even silver and gold.
All she asked was my soul.

How could I’ve know I’d been hypnotized.
There was more to my queen than first met the eye.
She had a chain of lovers who died her slaves
With a notion of blood for every drop that she gave.
I never thought she could break my heart
but all her contradictions are tearing me apart.
The secret she hides.
The beauty she flaunts
She’ll stop at nothing just to get what she wants.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My Middle Name is Hussein, Too

On Facebook there will be an event called "My Middle Name is Hussein, Too," on Aug. 4, Barack Obama's birthday. You can read about it at the HuffPo here, but essentially, some young voters got together to protest the stupid, kyriarchcal people who use the senator's middle name like a curse word, like a secret marker of Unacceptable Otherness that upholds all the reasons you should not vote for him. 

So if you're a member of Facebook and you want to show your solidarity, change your middle name to Hussein on Aug. 4. 

It's interesting how names define us -- or don't -- as if your name is supposed to encompass your entire being in a few (or many) syllables, a miniature resume that allows people to sum you up upon meeting you so they know which box to put you in. Names carry family ("Oh, you're Bob's boy"), heritage ("What kind of name is that?"), religion (see previous question), gender ("Isn't that a girl's name?") and sometimes even sexual orientation ("All gay men have track lightin'. And all gay men are named Mark, Rick or Steve.").

Names  -- or rather, the expectations people place on those names -- are often an albatross. I can't count how many times I've been told, "You don't look the way I imagined you on the phone." Or stumbling through yet another explanation that yes, this is my real name, no I didn't change it, I'm not trying to duck my heritage, my mom gave me the name she gave me and she gets rather peeved when I bug her for a do-over. And no, I'm not adopted. 

Sometimes I think life would be easier if Mom had given me a name that matched my phenotype, but then, isn't that just the ridiculousness that we attach to the social conventions of naming? The way we react to people's names tell us more about ourselves than the names tell us about the people we meet. Personally, I thought it was more interesting that the first name of Sen. Obama's mother is Stanley; hmm, I thought, that's interesting, why'd she get her father's name? (automatically assigning her name as "male," and so what does that say about the way I order the world?) Obama's middle name being Hussein? Meh. I'm more worried about remembering that his first name contains a C and keeping my fingers away from the S key when I write his last name, lest I slip from overuse (much like I put a T at the end of Chris most of the time without meaning to, because I write it so often these days). Because when am I ever going to spell it out? I'm actually putting more effort into figuring out which name is longer in old-style headline width counting, McCain or Obama, because a half-point makes all the difference in getting a headline to fit on one line or not. 

So I'm thinking about names today. I'm still struggling with finding a name that I feel represents this blog, still struggling with my decision to take my husband's name when we got married years and years ago (really wishing I hadn't), still considering if I want to change my name and, if I did, what would I change it to? What story would my new name tell about me? And about the people my name and I will encounter? 

Well, in any case, if you meet me on Aug. 4., my middle name will be Hussein, too. 

Monday, June 30, 2008

Get this woman a pastor, stat

I stayed up too late last night watching a recent rebroadcast of 30 Days on the FX channel. I'm a huuuuuuge fan of this show. For those who've never seen it: It follows the premise of "Walking a Mile in Someone Else's Skin" for 30 days, with the idea of, once you get to know someone intimately, you can no longer judge or hate them. So they took a Minuteman and had him live with an undocumented family, an anti-gay evangelical and had him live in the Castro District, a hunter with PETA activists, a born-again Christian with Muslims, etc. And if you think it's left-centered, that it's out to show that progressives have open minds and conservatives just need a crowbar, think again: One episode featured an atheist from Kansas living with an evangelical family in the Dallas area; the evangelical dad was completely defensive at first but really tried hard to make an effort to understand his houseguest and by the end of the 30 days had come to rearrange his thinking a bit; the atheist was a complete jerk who didn't budge a iota. 

So last night, the premise was "Put staunchly anti-same-sex-parenting person in a home with a same-sex family." And it was a terrible experience for everyone around. Kati, the woman undergoing the experience, came in feeling defensive, and so she felt attacked every time the conversation came up and dug in her heels around her beliefs so hard that she left dents in the hardwood floors. She cried after nearly every engagement and progressively looked as if she was falling to pieces as the days went by, as she struggled to stand up for her beliefs.

I was upset by Kati from the very beginning, because she started off with the statement, "I believe that children should be raised by a mother and father." Basically, the nuclear family is the only proper family. Well, I was raised in a non-nuclear family, without a dad, and I can tell  you that it wasn't Not Having a Dad that was the problem, it was world being snotty (and it still is being snotty, mind you) about Me Not Having a Dad that was the problem. 

Families do not fit in a single, narrowly defined box. What about extended families that help in raising kids? What about friends who live together and share responsibilities? Neighbors who help each other? Where are the boundaries of family? Does the raising of a child leave off at the parent(s)? Doesn't the efforts and work and love put in by grandparents, step-parents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, godparents, family friends count? Expand your mind to include all the possibilities, and you can't help but see that same-sex family is family, too.

But back to 30 Days. Kati held forth with her beliefs, blatantly telling the Patricks (the same-sex family hosting her) that she thought that their family was wrong, telling a child with lesbian moms that she was damaged, telling same-sex parents that what they were doing was against God and if they were hurting because the law didn't give them protective rights over their child, so sorry, it was their own fault for going against God and Law in the first place. And after nearly every encounter she was shown weeping at the unfairness of it, that why should she be punished for holding onto her beliefs?

I kept thinking, "Someone get this woman a pastor. Get her a pastor, NOW." This is interesting because a year ago I wouldn't have thought this, but ain't it funny how life is? There was no way Kati was going to be open to different ways of thinking as long as she felt like everyone was against her. As Kati was very religious (a devout Mormon), a supportive pastor would have helped guide her through her angst and used language Kati spoke to reassure her that turning over new and different ideas in her mind would not mean that God was going to smite her at any moment. Shown her biblical examples of the different kinds of families (and I tell ya, the Bible is NOT family-friendly). Read Ruth and see if that family arrangement is nuclear; it's Naomi who's left holding the kid by the end. Same-sex parenting, indeed. 

This is not to say a pastor would have helped Kati change her mind on the issue. That's not really what a pastor is for. But maybe she could have helped Kati clue into the fact that maybe one reason she was crying after these encounters because she was seeing the human collateral of her beliefs and her expression of them. And helped Kati pray on that. 

So I'm rather peeved at 30 Days for not giving her a session or four with a pastor to help her get through her crisis. 

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Worst Worst Hard Time

Back in December, when Husband and I were taking an evening of refuge at the Barnes & Noble from our frigid house, courtesy of the ice storm that knocked down power lines and left us in the dark for three days, I picked up Tim Egan's The Worst Hard Time, a tale of the Dust Bowl and those who lived it. Not the Okies who fled to California, so immortalized by Steinbeck that we're still known by this idea, but the Oklahomans (And southeastern Coloradans and Texas Panhandlers) who remained in the black, choking dust, drought and despair. 

Born and raised an Oklahoman, I've always held that era with some morbid fascination, even though my kin lived in northeastern Oklahoma and, like most of the country, had some of the dust, but not its brunt. Egan's book is a real reader, a page turner (and it would be, he's a journalist, and we write the best stuff!). But it's also a rather frightening warning for us in this era of climate change. Because for all those who think that humans can't change the climate, think on this: We did it before. That's what the D
ust was, our stupid folly, incited by greed and ignorance, and a sheer naivete on what difference we really make on this planet.

And take a look. The first picture is from the '30s. The second picture is recent

 ground is moving again. While Iowa and Missouri drowns, the Panhandles burn and wither, and the ground is movin
g again. Not all of it, thanks to soil conservation practices taught to the sodbuster farmers (t
hat is, farmers by economic opportunity, not by heritage) by the government. 

I recommend that you read Egan's book. And pray.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Reading in tongues: Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

(A few of my favorite blogs are doing poetry Fridays. I thought that instead of poetry, I would try to do a translation of one of my lectionary readings each Friday.)

Your mercy, YHWH, 
I will sing forever,
From generation to generation I will 
shout out 
your truth 
with my mouth.
Because you said, 
Mercy will be built 
From the heavens I will establish 
your truth;
I made a covenant with my chosen,
I swore to my servant 
So forever I will
your seed
and I will build up 
from generation to generation
your throne.

διάψαλμα (selah)

are the people who have heard 
the joyful sound;
by the light of  your face 
they walked,
and in your name
they will be happy 
all day,
And by your justness 
they will be raised up 
and praised;
Because the boasting of their strength 
is you, 
and in your pleasure, 
our horn will be raised up 
and praised;
Because our help is 
of the Lord,
of holy Israel, 
our king.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Personal pronouns to believe in

Last summer I took a class called Religion & Politics. Great class, wherein we primarily learned about neoplatonic and enlightenment worldview structures and how they are involved in political framing, and we analyzed political speeches for use of biblical and civil religion references and metaphors. I know I say this about almost every class I take, but this was one of those classes that you can really use for the rest of your life. Maybe all learning is that way. 
So armed with the knowledge from this class, I entered the endless 2007-08 political season with an eye and ear trained for certain key words. And I noticed something right off the bat about Barack Obama's slogans. Not just that he's smart enough to take a page fro
GOP's campaign playbook strategy (read Drew Westen's The Political Brain) and plaster his message across anywhere that he might be speaking, but that he crafted it in such a way to draw us in. Note that it's "Change That We Can Believe In" not "Change That You Can Believe In." "Yes We Can," not "Yes You Can" or "Yes I Can." If Hillary Clinton had been thinking, maybe she could have said "Our Solutions for America" instead of just "Solutions for America" with the implied "My" as the prefix.

What Obama is doing, see, is (technical language alert!) presenting a message of participatory eschatology. He is inviting us all to take part in the re-making of the new Eden, the new (beloved) community, to have a hand in the re-creation of American society, to save it from the powers of the universe that have sullied it. This is within the framework of the American civil religion that rose up most mightily with Kennedy (in Camelot, when the nation was "purer"), not of any particular Christian stripe (but still, mind you, very Christian. The Founders, though Deists, were still culturally Christian), and its telos is the renewal of the promise of America. I actually don't think this is a particularly Christian technique, renewal is a call in every religion. But I can see it through my christian lens, and compare it with Paul's work, which he was knocking around the Roman Empire. Christ, he said, died and we die with him, so that we are in- Christ, a renewed and now unbroken body of Christ. We take part, we invest, we feel like part of the family.

Take a gander at Bill Clinton's 1992 convention nomination speech and hunt for those important Wes and Uses. He does use "I" quite a bit ("George Bush doesn't care about you, but I will,") but one of his refrains is "Join us." Be part of an us. Take part. Participate in the new America.

Then take a look at John Kerry's 2004 convention nomination speech. Lots of Is and implied messiahship -- "Help is on the way." John Kerry will save us.

Vs. Bill Clinton's we'll save ourselves together. 

So when I hear Barack Obama use the We pronoun, I get excited. I understand why people are backing him, why he's getting support in droves. Because he's asked us for it. He's asked us to help him so we can help ourselves instead of asking us to let him help us. We're Americans, for phuque's sake, and above all, we help ourselves and others who need it. We don't cotton to people who try to do for us. 

Bob Burnett over at the HuffPo blogged along these lines today, comparing Obama to Lincoln and McCain to Rambo. McCain, he points out, is a fan of the I.

I'll stand with the We.

We Can Believe in Us.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reading in tongues -- Genesis 22:1-14

And it came after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham, Abraham." And Abraham said, "See me." And God said, "Take your beloved son, the whom you love, Isaac, and go into the high land, and offer him there as a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains that I will tell you. And after Abraham rose in the morning, he saddled his donkey. And he took with him two servants and Isaac his son, and after he cut wood for the burnt-offering, he got up and went and on the third day came to the place which God had told him about. And Abraham raised his eyes and saw the distant land. And Abraham said to his servants, "Sit here with the donkey. The child and I will go ahead together, and after we worship we will return to you all." And Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And with his hands he took the fire and the dagger the two of them went together. And Isaac said to Abraham his father, "Father." And Abraham answered, "What is it, child?" And Isaac said, "Look, here is the fire and the wood, where is the sheep for the burnt offering?" And Abraham said, "God personally will see to the sheep for the burnt offering, child." After going on together, they came to the place, which God had told Abraham. And there Abraham built the altar and laid upon it the wood. And after he bound the feet of Isaac his son, he laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the dagger to murder his son. And the Angel of YHWH cried out to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham." And Abraham said, "See me." And the angel said, "Do not lay a hand on the child, and do not do a thing to him. For now I know that you fear your God and for me would not withhold your beloved son from me." And Abraham raised his eyes and saw, and look -- a ram caught by his horns in the plant of Sabec. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered him as a burnt offering instead of Isaac his son. 
And Abraham called the name of the place there "YHWH Saw" in order that they might say today in the mountain YHWH was seen. 

I am attempting to keep up with my Greek by reading the lectionary passages for the week. So last night I read the Isaac story out of my Septuagint. This is kind of tough, as I don't have all the words in the Septuagint in my lexicons, but I make do. So yes, that's my translation of the passage, in all it's roughness. I rather prefer the rough translation than the pretty, cleaned-up, modern version, it reminds me that this is not a story from my world. And it's rather interesting reading a familiar story in another language, it makes you pay attention to pacing and the weight of the words and puts the story in another way. 

I always though that God was a bully and a thug in this story. Go sacrifice your beloved son to prove how much you love me. Ugh. But after translating this, I started to think again. I think the villain here was more Abraham than God. God was challenging Abraham to not sacrifice Isaac, to go against the practices of the day, waiting for Abraham to love his child more than he loved his convention. But because Abraham doesn't, God (rather, YHWH, because the word changes there in that last part, sign of redaction) intervenes. Yes, you love me. Don't hurt that boy. I know you would do it, but you don't have to. So just stop. Note that God was seen in the moment where violence was avoided through love.

In class, the professor pointed out that after this story, we never see Sarah again, leading some scholars to think that she died of a broken heart because she thought her husband killed her  only son. So even intention can have terrible results. 

Monday, June 23, 2008

Why Barack Obama is AWESOME

So Barack Obama's campaign has started a Web site that people can go to to "fight the smears": You know, those irritating e-mails you get about Barack Obama not being eligible to be president because he's not a natural-born citizen. Yeah, I know. I really don't know why he needed to start a Web site, all he had to do was send everyone to, and people who believe that shit and pass it on aren't going to believe his Web site anyway. That, and you deal with rumors the same way you deal with trolls: Ignore them and they go away. 

He's really got enough to deal with without having to deal with Internet rumor shit, like repairing his cred with America's Muslims (tell your volunteers to stop moving hijabis out of your photo ops! but thanks for the apology ...), because being a Muslim ain't a "smear" you know. The answer shouldn't be, "Barack Obama is not a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim and is a committed Christian," but rather "Barack Obama isn't a Muslim, but thanks for thinking so, he takes that as a high compliment. Because isn't it great if ANYONE of ANY religious faith, or none at all, can be president? Isn't that what makes this country so freakin' great? That's what FREEDOM is all about, folks! And the day we start denying people their full rights because of their religious affiliation is the day that this country stops being free."

Anyway, I found this great post on Slate on the rumors Obama shouldn't correct. Here's the ones that cracked me right up. Enjoy.

Barack Obama wears a FLAG PIN at all times. Even in the shower.

Barack Obama is a PATRIOTIC AMERICAN. He has one HAND over his HEART at all times. He occasionally switches when one arm gets tired, which is almost never because he is STRONG.

Barack Obama has the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE tattooed on his stomach. It's upside-down, so he can read it while doing sit-ups.

Barack Obama is a DEVOUT CHRISTIAN. His favorite book is the BIBLE, which he has memorized. His name means HE WHO LOVES JESUS in the ancient language of Aramaic. He is PROUD that Jesus was an American.
Barack Obama goes to church every morning. He goes to church every afternoon. He goes to church every evening. He is IN CHURCH RIGHT NOW.

Barack Obama's skin is the color of AMERICAN SOIL.

Barack Obama says that Americans cling to GUNS and RELIGION because they are AWESOME.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

I bet everyone knew this already ...

I had this little realization yesterday that I've been studying Bible in such a way in order to prove that it doesn't suck and is going to piss me off in every way. That is, I've had it in the back of my brain that I've been lied to about it all along, that it's not a perfect tool for rationalizing hateful and divisive behavior, and if we could just learn how to read it properly, we'd be cool.

It's dawning upon me that learning how to read the Bible is just confirming that it really does support the divisive shit better than the justice shit, and that was kind of Jesus' point (well, Jesus by way of the the Jesi that were the creations of the gospel writers) all along. There's this shit that was written down, and then there's people. Err on the side of people. Err on the side of love. Feed my stupid sheep.

Maybe it's that we're Christians in spite of the Bible, not because of.

And maybe it really is time to switch from hermeneutics to theology.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Being unfunny is more offensive than being offensive

I haven't seen Mike Meyers' The Love Guru, and I really didn't have any plans to. The posters and ads didn't thrill me, not only because it looked like one of those "Last Samurai"-type movies where you drop a Neocolonial guy into a different culture and he proves that he can do their culture better than they can -- and proves that we only care about other places when we can watch a Neocolonial interacting with it -- but it looked like he was out to offend everyone he possibly. Mostly Vern Troyer (whom I actually came to love after his stint on The Surreal Life), but also various facets of Hinduism -- rather, a stereotype of Hinduism.

Back when Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan came out, I avoided it because I thought it would be so offensive I wouldn't be able to sit through it. Lacking HBO, I hadn't seen Da Ali G Show but I 'd seen Borat from his visit to 
the Oklahoma City Traffic Commission where he put out a very long rambling speech in which he apologized that our food made him create a terrible smell and said he wanted to make romance with one of the women in the room -- not by force, of course (and also made me very proud of my city officials for being so beyond-the-call-of-duty polite to him). When I heard he was an "equal-opportunity offender," I really didn't want to see it. "Equal-opportunity offenders" use humor like a blunt tool instead of a scalpel, whacking indiscriminately at anyone and everyone when they could be excising injustice and oppressive elements of society through satire.

I was wrong, Borat was very satirical and very good, and there was a moment where I almost cried because the offensive, awful, anti-Semitic character of Borat was the only one who treated a prostitute with respect. But he was also very very funny. Freakin' funny, actually. And funny makes up for offensiveness most of the time. I know that funny is very subjective, but it seems to me that when you're really funny, you make us laugh at ourselves, not other people, and you make us have sympathy with the clown who's pointing out our foibles, who also has sympathy with us. 

I don't know if Mike Meyers does that, but it doesn't seem like it. There's been a lot of uproar over The Love Guru (check out The Washington Post's On Faith blog's blogs on The Love Guru), but it seems like the controversy can't save it. The reviews are out, and it's just not funny. I'm not actually surprised, I think that Mike Meyers hit his high point with So I Married an Axe Murderer and the first Wayne's World movie. So I won't even get to see if it was offensive or stereotypical. It just doesn't seem worth the $5 to go decide.

If you want funny, go watch the Borat link above. That's pretty funny.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Connubial fusion

I am reading Sex and the Single Savior by Dale B. Martin, a really fascinating look at how our gender and sexuality -- and our hangups with both -- play a role in biblical interpretation. I just finished his chapter last night on what Paul says about marriage and it really put me in the mood for a ham sandwich. 

Back at the turn of the century when Husband and I got married, we, like most young, christian-raised folks, we looked around for the right "Bible verses" to include in our ceremony. Of course 1 Corinthians 13 got in there (and then got knocked right out by the Unitarian preacher we'd hired to do the ceremony, which eventually led to us un-hiring him, but that's a story for another day). Pity we hadn't really read the whole epistle, specifically 1 Cor 7:9, the bit about how it's "better to marry than to burn." Being biblically illiterate at the time, I think I knew that was in there, but I don't know if I really knew what it meant; I think I probably drew on my Catholic upbringing and thought that if you had sex without being married it was off to Hell for you. And since I specifically left the Catholic Church for that reason -- to have sex without sinning (in my adolescent mind, and still to some degree in my adult one, sin is relational in that if your group thinks something you're doing is wrong but you're sure it's right, get a new group). 

Turns out, that's only partially what Paul's talking about. The burning part has nothing to do with the fires of Hell and everything to do with the burning feeling of passion, that sensation of desire/lust that just takes you over and distracts you to no end. (Hah, like being married takes care of that! I love that feeling!) But for Paul, marriage was, essentially, a prophylactic for lust. ¿Qué romantico, no? Paul saw desire as something that would pollute the ekklesia, the community of Jesus followers, just like tainted meat-- idolatry-tainted, that is, and to only weak people, but still. Marriage and avoiding meat are for the weak. But be nice to them. (Why can't people take that away from Paul? He essentially keeps saying that, please be nice to each other.)

Thankfully, what we believe, follow and participate in now really doesn't have much to do with the "fundamentals." But it got me wondering about christian marriage and what the Bible "says" about it. Keep in mind that I don't think the Bible "says" anything; if it speaks, it's only through us. Reading is interpretive. But here's the words on two types of marriage that the Bible has been used historically to forbid or prohibit: inter-racial and same-sex. Thanks to for doing the heavy lifting for me.

Inter-racial: Verses usually used to prop up anti-miscegenation laws come from Genesis 28:1 (Isaac tells Jacob not to take a wife from Canaan); Leviticus 19:19 (don't let your cattle breed with other different types of cattle); Deuteronomy 7:2-3 (don't marry the Canaanites); Deut 22:9 (don't mix your seeds together in the same field); Deut 23:2 (don't let the bastards into the congregation); Jeremiah 13:23 (Leopards don't change their spots) and Acts 17:24-26 (God put different people on different parts of the world and determined when and where they would live).

(I think this list leaves out Ezra 10 where the Israelites who stayed in Israel during the Exile are forced to give up their foreign wives and their kids, and Nehemiah 13:23+, which recounts the same thing).

Same-sex marriage: Nothing! Not one thing in the Bible specifically forbids same-sex marriage. The Bible does mention polygamous marriage, Levirite marriage, forcing women to marry their rapists, slaves, but it doesn't say anything about same-sex marriage. It talks about homosexuality (kind of, at some points) at Genesis 1:27 & 28 (Be fruitful and multiply); Gen 2:23-24 (Marriage unites men and women as one flesh); Gen 19 (Sodom and Gemorra); Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (lying down with men is "an abomination"); Deuteronomy 23:17 (no sodomites in the house of Israel); Romans 1:26-27 (unnatural passions; and Sex and the Single Savior gives this a good going over, too! unnatural passions? more like, if you really follow the Greek, excessive lust, as in you're so horny you'll do anything); 1 Corinthinans 6 (effeminate men and "abusers of mankind," along with a long list of other bad people, won't go to Heaven; SatSS talks about this one, too. C'mon, do we really shun effeminate men in our churches?); 1 Timothy 1 ("abusers of mankind" are still bad people);  and Jude 1:7 (sodomites like "strange flesh"). 

The point of this exercise is, well, rather ridiculous, except to point at the ways we not only interpret but also how we grow. We don't point to the Bible to justify keeping people of different races apart in marriage. Eventually, we won't point to the Bible to justify keeping people of the same gender apart in marriage. I think Paul really was wrong about marriage being a prophylactic against desire; marriage, when you do it right, makes that desire for that other person burn even stronger. Someday, we'll all burn together. What a flame that'll be.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Super Yes we can! ... with attitude!

Even better! Gawd bless the Internets.

I (shhhhhh!) volunteered for politician today. Technically, I'm not supposed to, as in theory it causes an objectivity/impartiality issue. But as I'm about six weeks (again, shhhhhh! plans to be detailed when the time approaches) away from this not being an issue anymore, and since this business has changed so much, I'm thinking it's better to wear my subjectivity out there while at the same time I'm doing my best to make sure each side gets a fair shake. 

Here's the dealy-o: I began working as a professional journalist in 1994, year of the Republican Revolution that, as far as I can see it, was the path toward all that damn near has ruined everything. I saw Inhofe introduce Charlton Heston at a fundraiser as his "Good friend Carlton," I did my very first professional article about how Coburn thinks condoms have no effect on preventing AIDS and followed him around the 2nd District as he rode into office on that big GOP wave. 

I have spent every election night since 1994 in a newsroom, awaiting results with one ear on NPR through the little transistor in my ear and the other eye on the AP wire. In 200o and 2004, I left the office after 2 a.m. not knowing who the next president would be and dreading the next day (or in the case of 2000, the next weeks) because I could see the way the wind was blowing. I cried my eyes out the day after the 2004 election day while watching The West Wing because then-candidate Jed Bartlett apologized to a dairy farmer for keeping subsidies low because "I just couldn't stand the idea of poor kids not getting milk." Break my heart, why don't you, why can't we have that kind of world?

I walked into this candidate's office on a whim, ready to help out, ready to get involved, knowing full well that there's a good chance that I will get my heart broken on every level possible come this November. It's easier to sit in my living room, just observing and never getting connected so that you never get disappointed. And yet, there I went, doing this humble little task as well as I could because it was work that needed doing and there was the small chance that yes we can believe in change. 

Change is worth the risk. Living is worth the risk. Life for everyone is worth any risk. 

I would not have done this three years ago, before seminary and the UCC church and the various religiously linked groups that I've been hanging with and being changed by. I can honestly say I probably will never get the personal Jesus thing, but I think I'm really getting an idea on the christian thing. 

Super Yes we can!

My new favorite picture! Hat tip to Mixed Race America

Rescue the frog. Or, have some frog legs

I blame Al Gore. Yeah, Al Gore gets a lot of blame for a lot of things (thanks for the Internets, buddy. As if I needed more things to suck my life away, I was doing fine in 1994 with my time wasting. Now look at me, 14 years later and I can't go five minutes without getting online!). Anyway, in the movie about his movie, An Inconvenient Truth, there is this little cartoon clip about the frog in the water. You know the thing: you put the frog in a pan of cold water, the frog floats around in the water, happy as a ... I guess, a frog in water ... and then you put the pan on the stove and start to heat it up. The water gets warmer and warmer and the frog gets a nice warm, then hot, bath, until finally it just cooks to death without realizing it.

In the movie, a hand reaches in and pulls the frog out of the water, and Gore son
orously yet cheerfully informs us, "It's important to rescue the frog." 

He said that in earlier versions of the slideshow, he let the frog die, but people got upset. Al Gore, saviour of cartoon frogs. I bet they didn't mention that in his Nobel Prize.

But anyway, yes, it's important to rescue the frog, literal and metaphorical. That was the first time I'd ever heard the frog-in-the-water story. Now I heard it everywhere. Apparently this story has been around for more than a century, rooted (according to Wikipedia) in psychological experiments in the nineteenth century. It means, either, that bad things will happen because you're not paying attention, or, conversely, good things will happen because you were slow and steady in your approach. 

And, according to Internet rumour-checker, it's completely wrong. Gawd love the frog, they're smarter than the people telling the story, they will try to get out of the pan when the water gets too hot. 

So I'm browsing the Internets this morning when I came across this story at the L.A. Times about people in Virginia freaking out over all the happiness in California with the same-sex weddings. Seeing George Takei get married to his partner of 21 years just might make some Trekkers in Richmond catch the gay, apparently. The frog might catch it, too, come to think of it ...

Moore and Lux had never heard of West Hollywood. From their startled stares, it appeared they would have preferred never to have heard of it. Only Takei was a familiar face -- but a notion that Mr. Sulu was now something of a gay activist just made matters worse.

"You watch this celebration and I honestly worry about indoctrination," Lux said.

"It's like the frog-in-the-water syndrome," Moore added in agreement. "You know, the frog doesn't realize the water around it is heating up until it's boiled. I worry that Americans will get used to these images and they'll throw up their hands and say, 'Who cares?'"

Why is it that we never worry about lobsters and crab? We throw those in boiling water and no one seems to be upset about them boiling to death. I bet you could even boil them slowly like the frog and no one would care. Sometimes, the frog's supposed to boil. Aren't frog legs supposed to be tasty? I can't eat them thanks to The Muppet Movie, but still. Herb and Diana up there just haven't realized that frog legs are now on the menu, and they don't have to order them if they don't want to, but someone else might like some.  

What I'm reading: Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation by Dale B. Martin. It upholds reader-response biblical interpretation over sociohistorical criticism and pinpoints instances of homophobia in biblical interpretation, especially in liberal/progressive interpretations.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

If I were in California today ...

... I'd be crashing weddings, all day. I would have taken the day off and wedding-hopped, from church to church, registry office to registry office. Cake? Why thank you, I'd love some, and some champagne or alcoholic beverage of your choice that you happen to be serving.

Of course, I would have had to planned ahead. First, I would have either had to take the day off or call in sick.  It's worth it. I'd have had to buy a wedding-guest outfit that would be fabulous enough to be seen at all the weddings that are humanely possible to crash, yet not prone to wrinkling. Shoes, also, of the "looks to die for yet are gellin' in comfort" variety that can stand up to a lot of walking and cab and bus/trolly rides to get from one event of connubial bliss to another. And I'd have to not only buy and festively wrap a sufficient number of toasters to take as wedding gifts, but also take a large amount of money-stuffed envelopes, in case I ran out of toasters. 

I would hug, kiss, congratulate and shower love upon people who finally get to do what I did eight years ago, that is, get married to the person they love, with all the joys and frustrations that entails.

Hopefully, if I were in California, I'd know enough same-sex couples who would be taking the plunge and they'd invite me and my new fabulous, wedding-guest outfit. All my GLBT friends and family aren't in that stage yet. But someday ...

I found this video while I was wandering about the Internets this morning, Ron Zimmerman's "Defenders of Marriage." It's hilarious. Go watch.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Happy Loving Day

Today is Loving Day! No, not the day where we all get to be all smoochy with each other ... wait, that's exactly what it is, that we all get to be smoochy with each other! Loving Day is the commemoration of the June 12, 1967, Supreme Court ruling that struck down the U.S. anti-miscegenation laws that prevented whites and other races from marrying. 

The day is named after Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple at the center of the case who saw that love was more than skin deep. I could give the entire history of the case here
, but the Loving Day site has done a great job of laying out the history, so you can read it there. But this is one of my favorite parts of the case: According to a New York Times story, when Mr. Loving's lawyer was explaining to them all the legal strategies involve with the case, Mr. Loving said: "Mr. Cohen, tell the court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can't live with her in Virginia." 

 Mrs. Loving died in May, and throughout her life she remained a private person who rarely gave interviews about her courageous act. Throughout her life, she didn't think what she did was extraordinary. Rather, she said, "It wasn't my doing. It was God's work." However, last year on the 40th anniversary of Loving Day, she issued this statement, which moves me to tears every time I read it:

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.

California begins  marrying lesbians and gays on Tuesday. How cool it is that both of these days of loving are marked in the same week. Hopefully this is the event that finally normalizes love for everyone.

Now here's some disclosure: As you all well know, I'm biracial. But even though the state where I was born and still live had the anti-miscegenation laws on the books until they were struck down by the Loving case, that law specifically addressed black/white marriages, so I'm not sure that anyone would have had a fit by my parents' marriage. Not only that, but the U.S. legalized marriages between U.S. military and Japanese nationals in 1952, so again, I'm not actually affected. 

But you know, none of us have our civil rights unless we all have our civil rights. We can't love freely until we all love freely. 

Loving for everyone. Loving for all. 

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Hope changes everything

If you haven't checked out the Yes We Can site at DipDive lately, head on over and watch the other awesome videos people have been creating and posting based on the song. I especially liked the John McCain No We Can't vid. Sí podemos!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I heart Gov. David Patterson

First off, I thought it was awesome to see a man with the same disability as my mom, rise to a position of power with such grace. Being blind, even being legally blind, is tough, and this world does not make it any easier on you.

Then, after getting the governor spot in a sex scandal, he normalized human sexuality by talking openly about various incidents in his sex life that might be considered fodder for gossips. Was savvy enough, essentially, to keep the media out of his private life by showing them he had control of it.

And now, New York Gov. David Patterson is working for gay rights in New York state.

“In many respects, people in our society, we only recognize our own struggles,” Mr. Paterson said. “I’ve wanted to be someone in the African-American community who recognizes the new civil rights struggle that is being undertaken by gay and lesbian and transgendered people.”

New York, in case y'all didn't know, is going to start recognizing all marriages performed in other states. Like California and Massachusetts.


So, outside of this governor-love, I'm on summer break (just got grades yesterday, and thankfully passed all classes with the grades I needed. Which I was worried about, because I'm not so hot in the preaching classes, you know), which really doesn't mean much for me. I have no classes, but I've got quite the to-do list and a reading list that would scare just about anyone. I'm doing independent research this fall on literary and critical theory and theology, which entails doing a lot of prep reading this summer. Right now, I'm reading selected writings by Michel Foucault, theologies by David Tracy (The Analogical Imagination and Blessed Rage for Order), Laurel Schneider (Beyond Monotheism) and Catherine Keller (God and Power), and postcolonial heremeneutics.

Also, I ended my study of biblical Greek for the time being, so I've got to try and keep up with it on my own lest I forget it. So I'm slowly, painfully reading my way through the Second Testament in Greek. Yesterday I read the whole paragraph in Matthew about the magi showing up to Herrod without having to look at the dictionary more than twice, so that's something, maybe I did learn something. Aaand, I also need to keep up my Spanish literacy (I need reading ability in two modern languages for doctoral studies), so I'm reading my way through various Spanish novels I've bought over the years and never read. Right now I'm reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

So I'm pretty busy in a parked-on-the-couch sort of way.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Ain't Nothing Wrong with Oklahoma ...

... that ain't wrong with the rest of the U.S.

Over on AlterNet, a progressive opinion site I found back in 2004 as I was working through the depression caused by the election results, there's a column titled "Xenophobia and Anti-Gay Legislation Galore: What's the Matter with Oklahoma?" (yup, thanks, Thomas Frank, for re-introducing that phrase for us to overuse). The article, written by someone who lives here, gives a fair, though sensational, account of what's been going on legislatively in our state over the past few years, with HB 1804, the latest attempts to get English as the official language (have fun with those lawsuits, if that ever passed!) and Sally Kern's "I got the Bible behind me" rants against GLBTs. And he concludes the article with a fair question that someone who loves his home would ask:

Still, the question remains: Why have these sorts of comments and such legislation gained traction in Oklahoma and other parts of the United States?

I say this is a fair question, because if you live here, you know, we're for the most part good folk. I can't remember where I read this, but someone once said that despite the racism, sexism and gay-bashing in the South, there's no place better if you're in immediate danger, like if a tornado took out your house or even if your car breaks down on the side of the road. We're helpful, we're kind to our neighbors in times of need. So yes, it's a fair question because in order to help our more status-quo-loving sisters and brothers see the terrible consequences that racism, sexism and heterosexism have on their lives and even their souls, we have to ask it. Why does xenophobia get expressed so easily, not just here, but everywhere? What are we so afraid of that we've targeted infants whose parents lack legal documentation?

Typically, the commenters at AlterNet prove that being progressive is not immunity to stupidity. Here's a taste:

what college-bound young Okies do when they graduate from the local universities. Where do they go to find work? Their attitudes must be soooo out of sync with most Americans, who happen to live in large metropolitan areas, that they must appear as freaks. Who would hire them?


Been there Too- My sister lives outside Tulsa.Beautiful state, but nearly all appear to have been beaten repeatedly about the head as children. Is there any laws regarding marriying your 'Brother Daddy'...Though Not.


Lots of contradictions and totally illogical unfactual reasoning from their elected governing body. The message is clear to me though, stay out of Oklahoma.


God Bless Commie Red Facist Okalahoma. The former home of the late Timothy McVeigh, Americas first citizen terrorist. Pardon me if I never visit your state again. But then again I am sure NONE CONSIDERED THE EFFECTS ON TOURISM of this most communist repressive state. Why don't you just cecede and declare Putin your leader. He has no problems with policies and laws of this sort.


All you have to do to these poor slobs in OK is hypnotize them with guns and bibles and keep them frothing at the mouth on social issues such as guns, god, gays, flag-burning, patriotism, terrorism, machoism, abortion, etc ..., and BINGO, they're yours for the RAPING, er "taking" !


Although many of the comments are fair, mostly from people who either live here or have lived here or have family here, this just goes to show how easy it is to fall back into superficial, narrow-minded rhetoric as easily as Ann Coulter. I know I shouldn't be surprised, Oklahoma has a bad reputation, and stuff like this doesn't help it on the world stage, but stereotypes piss me off. And then there's the whole "No one makes fun of my sister except me!" thing going on. I live here, I live under this shit and fight against it, I live next door to these folks and am related to many who have the same opinion and I love them and they love me despite our differences in opinion, and I'll be damned if they're going to be judged like this by people who don't know them. I'll do that, thank you very much, I've earned it. After all, criticism works best when it's delivered by someone you love.

So, go over to AlterNet and let those ignant people have it. And let's really ask ourselves what we can do about shit coming out of people who make us look so bad in the media's eye.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I love these commercials, for one reason or another the chorus just brings to tears to my eyes every time I hear it. Could be because I'm a rabid watcher of Discovery Channel (Yes, I'm addicted to Deadliest Catch. And How It's Made. And Mythbusters. And Dirty Jobs. I think most of what I watch when I can watch TV is on Discovery Channel.). Could be because it's based on a children's song and it makes me nostalgic for those nice hazy fall days in Mrs. Siegle's first-grade class when Mr. Crow was teaching us to sing old folk songs. Or it could be that the chorus just gets to me, because it's so true.

I love the whole world
And all its sights and sounds
Boom-de-yada, boom-de-yada-boom-de-yada-boom-de-yada ...

I love the whole world
And all its craziness
Boom-de-yada, boom-de-yada-boom-de-yada-boom-de-yada ...

I love the whole world
It's such a brilliant place ...
Boom-de-yada, boom-de-yada-boom-de-yada-boom-de-yada ...

What were we thinking when we decided that the world was bad and some otherworldly heaven is good? Let's hear it for material existence. It really is just awesome.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Take us out, Mr. Sulu

George Takei is getting married! Yay!

Now that California Supreme Court has ruled that all Californians have the right to get married, Takei and his partner of 21 years are fulfilling their dream wedding. As you might have guessed, George Takei is one of my heroes. When I was growing up, we watched all the shows that featured Asian people, even if we didn't like them, simply because, I realize now, my mom was lonely for faces that were familiar to her. So we were regular watchers of Quincy, M.E. for Robert Ito and Star Trek for Takei. We watched that awful Shogun miniseries and Hawaii 5-0 and anything that remotely had an Asian cast. But I was always a fan of Star Trek, because I'm a big nerd, and my favorite episodes were Sulu-heavy (The Naked Time, which features a hot Takei brandishing an epee and Shore Leave, where he gets the girl. (Huh, I didn't realize that Sulu was actually haafu -- half-Japanese and half-Filipino. Go figure!) Anyway, he was always a hero of mine when I was growing up. Here was this guy who looked like me who was steering the Starship Enterprise and doing all sorts of heroic deeds. He was not a red-shirted ensign who would die in any episode, but permanent! When I was growing up, I never had any idea that the world would give people like me any shit, because there was Mr. Sulu in that spot, and if Mr. Sulu was there, if Sam from Quincey was there, hell if Margaret Cho was there, why couldn't I be there someday, too?

When Takei came out a few years ago, I was happy that he was taking that brave step to again lead people forward. And now he's getting married! He wrote about it on his blog and compared the laws that prevented GLBTs from getting married to same-gender partners to the discrimination he faced as a child in the internment camps.
As a Japanese American, I am keenly mindful of the subtle and not so subtle discrimination that the law can impose. During World War II, I grew up imprisoned behind the barbed wire fences of U.S. internment camps. Pearl Harbor had been bombed and Japanese Americans were rounded up and incarcerated simply because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. Fear and war hysteria swept the nation. A Presidential Executive Order directed the internment of Japanese Americans as a matter of national security. Now, with the passage of time, we look back and see it as a shameful chapter of American history. President Gerald Ford rescinded the Executive Order that imprisoned us. President Ronald Reagan formally apologized for the unjust imprisonment. President George H.W. Bush signed the redress payment checks to the survivors. It was a tragic and dark taint on American history.

With time, I know the opposition to same sex marriage, too, will be seen as an antique and discreditable part of our history. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy remarked on same sex marriage, "Times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper, in fact, serve only to oppress." (SOURCE: Takei's blog)

He was, is and always will be my hero and one of my biggest role models. Thank you, Mr. Takei, and congratulations to you and Brad. I wish you all the happiness in the world!

Monday, May 12, 2008

8 Things Never to say to a Mixed-Race Colleague

I found this post (8 Things Never to say to a Mixed-Race Colleague) through Racialicious today. I just got done writing about hybridity and mimicry issues in the Antioch Controversy, as presented by Paul in his Letter to the Galatians, and a portion of that paper had to do with racial/ethnic identification. Interesting that this article would be published today, if I hadn't turned in my paper already I'd include it.

Anyway, here's my answer on these 8 things. And yes, while I understand that people are caring individuals who are trying to express their appreciation or affection by trying to know more about the person, we really need to start questioning why we feel the need to know. And just so you know, I get these questions asked at me ALL THE TIME.

1. "What are you?"

I have to say, this question beats the hell out of "Where are you from? No, really, before that, where are you really from? At least it's honest, they really want to know why I look the way I do. Actually, most of the time I get, "What tribe are you?" because I seem to look either Cherokee or, it seems, Eskimo (that was the last one, "Are you Eskimo?"). Go figure. But here's the thing: What am I? Well, as much as I'd love to be, I'm not Gallifreyan. I'm not a Cylon, either. That alone should give you ample fodder for a more productive conversation about what I am (i.e. a huge sci-fi fan. And, oh yeah, HUMAN.). You don't get to ask this question without coming across as a total idiot, as there's no way to ask it intelligently.Trust me, if you're really my friend, it'll come up in conversation.

2. "What's your nationality?" "You look foreign."
If I lived in any other country on the planet, I'd have somewhat more sympathy for askers of this question. Nationality seems to have a racial/ethnic component to it in most of the world; that is, if you ignore the reality of minority populations in most countries that have been oppressed or dismissed (ainu or Roma, for example). In the U.S. -- we have no racial/ethnic component. Everyone gets to be a estadounidense. And unless you're First Nations, you're a foreigner, too.

3. "You're all beautiful." "You make beautiful babies."
Thanks for the objectification. So I guess beauty really is skin deep? That must mean that your monoracial kids are butt-ugly.

4. "Are you X or Y?" "Which side are you more on?"
The interesting thing about this question is, it's in the mind of the questioner more than it is mine. It also plays into the idea that we all wear just one identity. I identify with both my sides, more so one than the other at certain times and in certain environments, but it's not like my Asian side goes away when I'm at the calf fry singing along with Hank Junior. And it's not like we round up, either, i.e. I identify 55% with my Asian side, so that makes me really Asian. Nope. And there are no benchmarks: I don't speak, read or write Japanese, I don't often cook Japanese food and I'm not a Buddhist, and even if I were, there are plenty of non-Asian people who do any or all of these things.

5. "How in the world did your parents meet?"
This is a silly question in this day and age. We're so global, people move around so much, people from all over the place meet other people from all over the place. I actually don't get this question as much as I get the "Did your parents meet during the war?" And then I wonder which war they're thinking about, because I'm not THAT old.

6. "You're the future." "You're the best of both worlds."
Heh. If I'm the future, then does that mean you're history? Trust me, just because you're mixed race does not mean you're the answer to the world's problems with racism. We don't shag our racism away. And if in the future we were all mixed-race, then we'd just find another reason to be an ass about. And that "best of both worlds" thing is crap, too. Trust me, I get the worst, too, just like anyone. And again, thanks for the objectification.

7. "You don't look ..." "You're not ..." "You sound white."
I get to decide what I am, thank you. That's the right of any human being, we get to determine our own identities, even if they fall outside of the little check-here boxes. And I used to get the "You sound white" thing all the time, at least in the form of "You don't look like I expected when I talked to you on the phone." I found pretty quickly that the best way to get a comment from someone over the found was to match your accent to theirs so you'd sound like one of the bunch. I'm from here, I can have a local accent. But I really watch too much TV to sound local all the time. And what does "sounding white" mean, anyway?

8. "Aren't we all mixed, anyway?"
Technically, yes. There's no such thing as a genetically pure person. Race is a social construct. But if we really did accept that we're all mixed, then you wouldn't be pestering me with these questions, would you? The fact that I claim my biracial mix wouldn't be an issue. We'd all accept that we're each different.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On privilege

Am in T-Town today, hanging out at the Chain Bread Bistro and am irked that I got more bread than bowl in my Soup in a Bread Bowl meal.

Anyway, so in class today we took the Privilege test. A variation on the test can be glimpsed at this discussion here, but here's the basics: A series of statements are read ("My grew up in a home my parents owned." "I am able to publicly show affection to my partner.") and you either step forward or backward depending on what you answer. The role of the exercise is to let people understand exactly what privilege is; not racism, but privilege, defined not as "I hate (person of differing race/ethnicity/gender/sexual orientation) and wish they'd diiiiiieee!" but to unmask how subtle privilege is, that we really do NOT start off at an equal spot, that some of us got a leg up that we weren't even ever aware of. Trust me, having parents who understood the college application process is a HUGE advantage right there.

So we go through this exercise, and I actually fell a lot farther on the "non-privileged" side than I did the "privileged" side, which surprised me and seriously bummed me out. Weirdly, I was totally prepared to deal with my privileges, but I was stunned to see the lack. I really didn't realize that some of the shit I deal with were actual disadvantages.

But that's neither here nor there. The response to the test by one member of the class was fairly typical. "White, middle class America is under attack! If you're poor or a minority, you get financial aid and so much help, but you're all alone if you're white and middle class, and these people make it feel like it's all your fault that they're poor! I didn't do anything! I'm a good person!"

Not the first time I've heard this. Not even this week. So, here's my one reply. Spread it around, y'all, please, so I don't have to keep repeating it.

First off: You're attacking the wrong people. "If you're poor or a minority, you get advantages?" Yes, because Pell grants and food stamps are such a great thing compared with being treated like a non-human (pssst, they're not.) Think about this: To get said "advantages" you have to live in areas that are both socially and environmentally harmful to your health; you have to go to substandard schools; if you can go to a "good" school that has all the resources (like a computer! with Internet! Folks, there are schools in the U.S. that don't) you have to work your ass off to stay there; you probably won't see your parents much, since one or both of them is probably absent; and you're hungry, probably often, and you didn't get the nutrition you needed to help your brain develop properly when you were a kid. Oh, and if you can survive and thrive past all that, and you get financial aid into college, well, it's still tough because you'll have to work, and you probably won't have a car to get you around. Extra-curricular activities, you know, those things that help you make connections and points to put on a resume, will probably go out the window because you'll be working and studying too much.

So yes, let's 86 the idea that being poor or a minority is so great for financial aid. Turn your ire on the people who deserve it: The 2% or whatever that have all the money, who are working through corporations, media and government to turn us against each other so that we won't notice what they're doing. We should be pulling together, people! Think on this: Your kid's spot at Yale is being taken up by the next Dubya Bush. Your kid, who was all As in high school, on every team, in every club and read to old people at the nursing home every day after school, will be denied entrance to Yale because of a C average legacy who will spend his whole 4 years partying.

And here's the other thing: OK, so some poor kid got financial aid and your kid didn't. OK, so I guess he'll have to do what the rest of us do: sacrifice. He'll have to work and not get all the things that'll make college pay off big, like the extra activities and the study abroad classes. He'll have to go half time to work so he can pay. He'll (gasp!) have to go to a land-grant university instead of the Ivy League place. He may even have to go to community college first because it's affordable and he can actually afford to pay for it.

And that, my friends, is privilege in a nutshell -- thinking that your kid SHOULDN'T have to do all that, because someone else has scooped up his opportunity.

Sucks, don't it?

This is the way things are. You are being PLAYED. Someone's making life tougher, and believe me, it ain't us (the poor, the minority, the gay). You are being duped into thinking that life for you means no-life for us, when in fact, no-life for us means no-life for you, too. We are only as strong as we all are together.

We can have a better world, but we've GOT to get rid of this notion that we're entitled to shit because we EARNED it somehow. No on earns anything. We do what we do, and it works out for some of us and not for others. We're entitled to shit because we breathe. And if we're not greedy about our air, there'll be enough for everyone. God loves us all.

So own your privilege and then let it go. Breathe. Love.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

'We are miseducated as a people'

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright was on Bill Moyers' Journal Friday night. Go watch. Or read.

REVEREND WRIGHT: I think I come at that as a historian of religion. That we are miseducated as a people. Or because we're miseducated, you end up with the majority of the people not wanting to hear the truth. Because they would rather cling to what they are taught. James Washington, now a deceased church historian, says that after every revolution, the winners of that revolution write down what the revolution was about so that their children can learn it, whether it's true or not. They don't learn anything at all about the Arawak, they don't learn anything at all about the Seminole, the Cheek-Trail of Tears, the Cherokee. They don't learn anything. No, they don't learn that. What they learn is 1776, Crispus Attucks was the one black guy in there. Fight against the British, the- terrible. "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal while we're holding slaves." No, keep that part out. They learn that. And they cling to that. And when you start trying to show them you only got a piece of the story, and lemme show you the rest of the story, you run into vitriolic hatred because you're desecrating our myth. You're desecrating what we hold sacred. And when you're holding sacred is a miseducational system that has not taught you the truth. I also think people don't understand condemn, D-E-M-N, D-A-M-N. They don't understand the root, the etymology of the word in terms of God condemning the practices that are against God's people. But again, what is happening is I talk a truth. Reading the scripture or the hermeneutic of a people who have-

BILL MOYERS: Hermeneutic?

REVEREND WRIGHT: Hermeneutic is an interpretation, it's the window from which you're looking is your hermeneutic. And when you don't realize that I've been framed- this whole thing has been framed through this window, there's another world out here that I'm not looking at or taking into account, it gives you a perspective that-- that is-- that is informed by and limited by your hermeneutic. Dr. James Cone put it this way. The God of the people who riding on the decks of the slave ship is not the God of the people who are riding underneath the decks as slaves in chains. If the God you're praying to, "Bless our slavery" is not the God to whom these people are praying, saying, "God, get us out of slavery." And it's not like Notre Dame playing Michigan. You're saying flip a coin; hope God blesses the winning team, no. That the perception of God who allows slavery, who allows rape, who allows misogyny, who allows sodomy, who allows murder of a people, lynching, that's not the God of the people being lynched and sodomized and raped, and carried away into a foreign country. Same thing you find in Psalm 137. That those people who are carried away into slavery have a very different concept of what it means to be the people of God than the ones who carried them away.

Amen, brother

(I mean that in a completely secular way ...)

Atheist soldier claims harassment:

Hall said he enjoys being a team leader but has been told that having faith would make him a better leader.

"I will take care of my soldiers. Nowhere does it say I have to pray with my soldiers, but I do have to make sure my soldiers' religious needs are met," he said.

"Religion brings comfort to a lot of people," he said. "Personally, I don't want it or need it. But I'm not going to get down on anybody else for it."

Friday, April 25, 2008

"... but His girlfriend was a whore."

(Above title comes from a line in The Wolves of the Calla, book five in the phenomenal Dark Tower series by Stephen King. The exchange goes like this:

"Your Man Jesus seems to be a bit of a son of a bitch when it comes to women," Roland said. "Was He ever married?"

The corners of Callahan's mouth quirked. "No," he said, "but His girlfriend was a whore."

"Well," Roland said, "that's a start."

Which, despite the Old Catholic School understanding of the Magdalene and Jesus' relationships with women, is a pretty damn good line in my book.

Anyway, I bring this up because I saw this posting this morning:

“I’m not comparing myself to Rosa Parks or Jesus Christ. I’m comparing myself to someone standing up for their rights. I’m just saying you can have an unpopular person who is criminalized and demonized. Jesus Christ was crucified by Pontius Pilate at my age. He was not a popular guy.” POST
-- From The Prisoner in Cell Block DD in GQ

Yes, folks, that's Girls Gone Wild producer Joe Francis comparing himself to Jesus! And that automatically brings to mind a rather surreal image of Buddy Christ hanging out at Padre (where else?) on Spring Break and getting drunk young coeds to take off their shirts in front of a video camera and make out. Take that, Willam DaFoe's hallucination about marrying the prostitute!

Seriously, though, everyone go read Mark Lewis Taylor's The Executed God so we can be sure about what we're talking about here. I find that dialogue best begins when we've defined the terms properly. Kind of like you really can't talk about privilege until we make sure that everyone understands that the word doesn't mean, "I'm buying my second Hummer because my first one was too small," but rather "I can drive to work at Princeton in my Hummer and not get stopped simply because I resemble the stereotype of someone who steals Hummers for a living." (Cornel West). Because losing a popularity contest is not what gets you executed by the state.

I hate this Jesus meek and mild shit. Really I do. This Jesus walks with me and talks with me and laughs at all my jokes bullcrap.

Jesus was tortured and terrible done to death for opposing a system that brutally dehumanized a majority of the world. For daring to tell people that they were worth more than the sacrifices they were paying or making. For letting them know that they were human beings, even though they were treated like dirt and property. And even though we in the West have reduced Jesus to a personal Superman who rescues us from our individual psychic distress, at the heart of the matter is, we all deep down understand that something is robbing us of our true human feeling, our willingness to reach out and touch a stranger with love because we really do love ourselves and when you love yourself you can't help but love another, because if we're all in-Christ, then we see our Others as Ourselves, we realize that we are Others to Others -- that we are even Others to Ourselves -- and we can bridge that gap anyway. Jesus loves us so we can do that.

So think about who or what are keeping us from that? Our desire to really live in community with the gentiles in our lives?

And let's also think about people who we can really compare with Jesus. NOT Joe Francis. Let's see ... Gandhi. Martin Luther King Jr. Oscar Romero. Malcolm X. Jean Donovan. Dorothy Kazel. Maura Clarke and Ita Ford. John Brown. James Chaney. Andrew Goodman. Michael Schwerner. Many more who die so that others will not be brutalized or tortured any more.