Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
November 19, 2018
James Loewen… huh.
Category: Linkage … Serious

Random "...huh" moment: this Vox article showed up on my FB feed, so I decided to click through and give it a look since it contains an interview with James Loewen. I'd never heard of Loewen before a few years ago, when an Italian friend (in the midst of an argument about Columbus Day) excoriated him for his authorship of Lies My Teacher Told Me and his revisionist approach to the study and teaching of history. In the midst of our exchange, she wrote, "Loewen, a black historian, clearly had his own agenda in both his writing and teachings."

And I just sort of assumed she knew what she was talking about, at least with respect to Loewen -- the sentiment was hella racist (rather than seeking to remove bias from and approximate truth in our understanding of history, a black man "clearly" must be writing to serve an anti-white and anti-Italian agenda), and it was preceded by other comments I found equally offensive (I discontinued the exchange once she got around to projecting that agenda onto me). But the awful nature of her views on the subject seemed most apparent in her emphasis on the fact that Loewen is black.

Except I'm reading this article, and at one point Loewen responds: "If you looked around the world at that time, white people dominated most of it. ... We simply assumed that we dominated because we were better, or smarter, or worked harder." And it strikes me as odd that Loewen would use "we" there given that Loewen is presumably a black man.

So I hit the Google Image search and do a little more digging (photos aren't exactly conclusive here), and I ultimately land on Loewen's bio on the Tougaloo College website. And here I read: "In 2012 the American Sociological Association gave Loewen its Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award, for 'scholarship in service to social justice.' He is the first white person ever to win this award."

...Huh.

-posted by Wes | 3:27 pm | Comments (0)
November 7, 2018
A thing I learned today.
Category: Miscellany … Serious

So I learned a thing about myself today.

Folks who've known me for a while (or perhaps not as long, depending upon what you've read and/or what I've said in particular conversations) know that a question that has long plagued me is whether or not I am or indeed can ever be *good*. There's a lot involved in that line of questioning, but part of it has stemmed from my general lack of feelings, or at least their irrelevance to much of my programming: I tend to not *feel* particularly strongly, but I have principles how I should treat others given the nature of our relationships, and I stive to hold to those. One of the reasons I enjoyed Dexter (the show) was that I identified closely with the titular character's approach to the world -- he was governed not by emotions but by a set of rules: a code. In Doctor Who, I very much liked the Doctor's declaration at the end of Capaldi's first season: "Love is a promise," such that a Cyberman, purged of all emotion, is still capable of adhering to and acting on its dictates. I don't know that I'm capable of the love people generally describe when they talk about that phenomenon -- and I particularly question my ability to experience the intensity of feeling, the physical desire, the emotional connection and empathy, and so on that people describe as components of romantic love -- but I endeavor to be good to the people about whom I claim to care. (more...)

-posted by Wes | 10:27 pm | Comments (0)
October 19, 2018
Terror in Blue?
Category: Serious

Question: To what extent do you think police have a responsibility to appear nonthreatening to citizens and particularly minorities?

I ask because the other day I encountered an officer at Total Wine whom I found kinda terrifying. He was a big, bald white dude with exposed arms covered in tattoos -- which I acknowledge doesn't necessarily mean he's dangerous and/or racist, but I admittedly tend to be on edge when I see those dudes. (Also, the tattoos were in that black tribal sort of style. While I didn't look closely, it's not difficult for me to imagine some Celtic or otherwise troubling symbols woven into the pattern.) But what really made me uncomfortable was the Thin Blue Line flag sewn into his uniform. Apparently the sale of those flags benefits the families of officers killed on duty, and in any case it shouldn't be controversial for an officer, or anyone else, to oppose violence against police officers.

And yet the flag -- and the Blue Lives Matter response -- has been used to counter and reject the message of the Black Lives Matter movement, and white supremacists and other stripes of racist have adopted the Thin Blue Line flag as one of their own symbols. So while I acknowledge the right of a private citizen to display this symbol (even though I still find it problematic and unsettling), I absolutely don't think it should be worn by an on-duty law enforcement officer.

Unless, of course, that particular officer doesn't give a shit about upsetting or appearing threatening to minority citizens (and other sensitive individuals) in his midst. I froze and pretty much stood stock still -- like the dude was a Jurassic Park T-Rex -- until that cop had moved out of sight, though admittedly stillness stemmed as much from fright as from my need to process what I had just seen.

Anyway. Your thoughts?

-posted by Wes | 4:15 pm | Comments (0)
October 14, 2018
The Ballad of Black Tom, etc.
Category: Books … Miscellany … Serious

Do you have any places that fill you with an inexplicable sadness?

So there's this section of road I occasionally have to drive -- I've probably mentioned it before -- and whenever I drive it during the evening I'm overcome with a deep and overwhelming depression. Like, suicidal depression. If that road had an exit to the Key Bridge, I'd probably steer my car right over the edge; if I kept a gun in the car (I don't own guns), I'd likely pull over and shoot myself in the head. That feeling is perhaps especially jarring because it usually follows otherwise positive and encouraging experiences -- when I land on it in the evening (for some reason I'm unaffected when I drive it in daylight), I'm usually on my way home from a writing group session or the horror book club meeting or the Renaissance Festival. I don't know how I'd feel if I ended up on that road after a particularly long and shitty day, and I'd be both curious and terrified to find out. (more...)

-posted by Wes | 11:50 pm | Comments (0)
October 10, 2018
Y Kant Trump Read
Category: Current Events … Serious

So, today Trump has an editorial up on the USA Today website. It's worth reading -- if only because it's a thing the President "wrote" and highlights the divided nature of politics today -- and especially clicking through to the articles linked to support his assertions. I imagine that the links were provided by USA Today staff; I can't imagine that Trump or (loyal) WH staffers would have included them.

Frex, Trump asserts that health insurance premiums are decreasing, and there's a UPI.com article linked to that statement. But while the article does begin with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar's assertion that premium costs will fall 2% in 2019, it also includes compelling statements from two other authorities that premiums would have decreased even further -- and would not have risen this year -- if not for Trump's policies. So the article really doesn't really help Trump's case at all.

I only found out about the USA Today editorial because Trump tweeted a link to it, but I'm skeptical that he actually read it (despite supposedly having written it) and it's clear he didn't read the linked articles. That's kinda... sad.

-posted by Wes | 6:24 pm | Comments (0)
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