Monthly Archives: November 2015

Paris and Bibi

The world is a funny place, where acts of terror can come from our friends and enemies alike. The assault on Paris, one of the world’s very special cities, devastated people all over the world, making the job of recruiting against Daesh easier for anyone willing to take charge. Also this week, a Spanish judge issued warrants for the arrest of Benjamin Netanyahu and several of his associates for the attack on a humanitarian flotilla of six ships trying to bring aid to Gaza. The unprovoked attack in international waters led to the death of nine aid workers at sea. A tenth died later of his wounds.

First, Paris. The news comes in slowly, but as of this writing, all of the attackers have been identified as French or Belgian citizens. The fake passport, suggesting one of the attackers had come through refugee processing in Greece, did not apparently belong to the individual beside whose body it was found. I share the grief felt by many for the brutality and inhumanity of this attack. I am ashamed by those Americans who call for the banning of Muslim refugees from Syria as a result of it. I am embarrassed by the governors who claim that their states will not accept Syrian refugees, as I ponder their stupidity in believing they have the ability to bar them. And I won’t even deign to comment on the members of the Republican Clown Car and the claptrap they’re spouting. We are Americans who form a nation of immigrants.

Some of our ancestors came here with prices on their heads from foreign sovereigns. Some came because of the promise of freedom and land to explore. The reasons were as myriad as the waves of immigrants who have come to us. But all came and were welcomed, sooner or later, except the most recent ones. Their time will come. But 99.9% of the refugees are innocent people escaping a war-torn country where their lives were in danger on a daily basis. Where their children were at risk and food and water were becoming scarce. The bigotry and animus shown to these people is incomprehensible in a nation that has done similar things in the past.

The amount of fear mongering and hate speech now heard on our airways is unbelievable, as are the various comment sections in newspapers and internet sites. I might even ask “Where are the Christians now?” You’re certainly loud enough when telling people who they can and can’t marry, or what a woman can do with her body, citing Leviticus. How about looking to the teachings of the man you claim to revere and adore. He said that we should comfort the afflicted, and help the poorest people we can. But I guess that doesn’t count.

Bibi on the other hand is being charged with the assault he ordered in 2010 against aid ships trying to get medicine and food to the people of the Gaza Strip. The blockade by Israel of Gaza was inhumane and cruel. Innocent people suffered because of the policies followed by Bibi. But he crossed the line when he called for a raid on a humanitarian convoy. A practice nearly uniformly honored, the bringing of aid to civilian populations during a time of war or other tragedy, was ignored and trumped by Bibi’s insular and insane desire to prevent aid from reaching those he was oppressing.

Spain has made something of a practice of indicting political figures once they are out of office. Its work with Pinochet first brought this practice to international notice. It is widely rumored that Bush and Cheney find themselves happily ensconced in the interior of the US, with no plans of traveling abroad for fear of Spain doing the same thing to them. (Too bad the Spaniards don’t practice “extraordinary rendition” as Bush and Cheney did in kidnapping targeted enemies and taking them to friendly states for torture sessions.) To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time a sitting leader has been indicted. It certainly makes it difficult for Bib to travel to any international meetings that may be taking place in Spain.

Three countries: France noble in its mourning, Spain righteous in its indignation, and the US cowardly in the pronouncements of its governors and Republican presidential candidates. Maybe we should take some lessons in good citizenship in the world.



Ruminations on Mizzou

We’ve all heard the outrage over the necessity of the president’s resignation at the University of Missouri (Mizzou) after protests demanding his ouster in the past week. A Washington Post column today discussed the nature of the resignation speech in the context of black lives in this country. The results from two professors were that the speech seemed to be apologizing to the president’s supporters and castigating those who “yelled,” presumably the protesters.

The comments on the article aroused in me a wondrous anger, saying such things as the actions protested against were minor and that the students had made a mountain out of a molehill. Several said that nothing terrible had happened, and throwing cotton balls could not be deemed to be an egregious action. The protesters were compared to thugs and irrational people with cavalier disregard of the fact of white privilege. I wrote an angry response to these commenters, and was surprised a few hours later to find that my and several other posts had been deleted, presumably by  WaPo.

I will attempt to reconstruct my comment here, because I am sorely offended by the majority of the comments. Those commenting, from the vantage of white privilege, claimed that the students were making a mountain out of molehill. I opined that they had mistaken what they had seen, that in fact rather than being a molehill it was the tip of the iceberg. Not one white person commenting could understand or appreciate the problems encountered by those who are not white. Raised in a white majority country, they have not felt the institutional weight of racism or any other -ism barring their way as a matter of course through life. They have not experienced what it must feel like to know that you might be killed or arrested merely for the color of your skin every time you walked out of the house. They could not understand the fear a mother might instill in her child knowing of the institutional racism throughout our society. Driving or walking while black, phrases currently bandied about knowingly by some whites who treat the terms as something of a joke, are horrifying things to consider. We would call it a police state if it were happening to whites.

The black students at Mizzou have lived with institutional racism since the day they matriculated. The president admitted as much in his resignation. Because we do not experience it, we tend to ignore it. I know this because I, and many of my friends, have examined our own positions since the phrase “white privilege” has gained conversationally a place at the table. All people of good conscience would do well to self-examine under such circumstances. I am not surprised to realize that I did very well on SATs and LSATs in my youth in part because they were aimed at me, a well-educated white.They used terms with which I had daily converse, situations I knew and recognized viscerally, language that fit that used in my home by my highly educated parents. I am a living example of white privilege, getting into schools and professions that welcomed me (slightly less than my male counterparts, admittedly) and I won’t address here the struggles that I faced in the ’60s and ’70s as a woman in a man’s world.

What I have come to realize in my introspection on the issue of white privilege is that (1) I will never personally experience the kind of daily denigration and disregard suffered by blacks in institutional settings, be they classrooms or confrontations with the police, and (2) I must recognize that racism I find in myself. Do I see other races as different? I do not intend to, but I do. I would be less than honest with myself to say otherwise. Do I struggle against this tendency? Mightily, but so far with only some success. Do I grant to my acquaintances the liberty of being themselves culturally? I certainly try, but am not immune to criticizing someone who speaks “poorly” i.e., not white. Why can’t everyone be like me? Because everybody, of whatever race or creed or ethnicity, is different. That’s the way of this world.

We should put as few walls around ourselves as possible, and open out to the wonder of everyone in this world. Life is a gift, and it should be shared with all. Love is a grace, and the more of it there is, the less unhappiness in the world. The Golden Rule, or its cognate, can be found in virtually every religion in the world. The rule we have set as our goal, then, is to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Consider then the Platinum Rule. We should do unto others as they would have us do unto them. Then we and our “other” brethren can be free. Then we have the chance to find happiness.


NaNoWriMo 2015

I believe I warned you earlier, but if I have not, today I have started NaNoWriMo 2015. For those of you unaware of this charming endeavor, the letters stand for National Novel Writing Month. The theory is that one commits to writing 50,000 words in the month of November on a book, preferably new, with the assumption that one will put one’s Inner Editor on hold, in detention, on vacation, or wherever you send it when it’s in the way. The main purpose of this practice is simple. It is training to put oneself in front of the computer, the typewriter, the pad of paper, or the dictation device, for a set period of every day. It is to develop the habit of writing, and writing everyday.

This is a refresher course for me. I participated in two camps (Camp NaNoWriMo) in the spring and summer of 2014. I wrote very well for several months after the second one, in between editing and rewriting and all the other day to day tasks we undertake when trying to complete a book. So they worked. But over the last several months, my life has been divided between the writing world (represented by my writers workshop) and politics. It’s rare for me to get personally involved in politics, since I virtually never am committed to any candidate in particular, and use the smell test to vote. I vote for the one I don’t have to hold my nose so hard to vote for him/her.

I lost the habit of writing for Bernie Sanders. I committed gobs and gobs of hours to his cause, volunteering several days a week at his headquarters here in Burlington. And a funny thing happened. As I was so involved, the urge to write disappeared. I would pick up my WIP after a successful day of work for my favoritest candidate ever, and have not a glimmer of an idea where the story went next. As I am a pantser, I need a character to tell me what to do, and they could not be found. Since I have the better part of 28,000 words on my current story, this is an awful dilemma. I care about the story, and I’m vaguely interested in continuing it, but the characters have stayed mum for the past four months.

It was time to take the bull by the horns, or whatever your chosen cliche is. With NaNoWriMo approaching, there was a fall-off in the number of hours of work at HQ caused in large measure by the opening of offices in other areas, including several states and DC, which meant that we were no longer doing everything for the campaign. And while this is a very good sign for the campaign, not so much for a gung-ho volunteer. Hmmmm, I wondered. Did NaNo just appear at the right time?

So I signed up, and started to write again on my story. Well, I’m over 2600 words for the day, taking this break to share with you. Amazing how easy (HA!) it is when I actually start it. It’s bedtime, and I’m going to call it a day. But the wheels are oiled and the engine is beginning to turn over. Look out, world, I’m coming at you again!