Friday, February 29, 2008

One Definition of "Teachable Moment"

(Noun) The distress created within an educator when a person, usually -- but not always -- a child under their supervision, confidently and perhaps innocently avers a soul-destroyingly false thing they have been taught by unscrupulous and/or ignorant-as-a-stump adults. This tension is often alleviated through an immediate, impolitic shout of "Who told you a thing like that?" and a subsequent lecture delivered in far more dulcet tones to eliminate the fear caused by the first shout.

Teachable moment(s) of the week:

Three separate 'tweener girls, at a book fair, upon seeing a book cover on which another young lady was depicted in a shortish, plaid skirt:
"Oh, she's gonna get raped."

Girl seeking advice about how to balance a boyfriend and schoolwork:
"Boys don't really care about us the way we do about them, so we have to worry about what they're doing all the time."

I need a drink.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Real America"

Among the many things chapping my ass these days are the political hacks on the TV talking about how the east coast isn't really America. New York isn't really America because there are all those icky New Yorkers there, Florida isn't really America because there are all those icky Hispanics there, and DC isn't really America because there are all those politicians and foreign diplomats there, etc. Because the "real America" happens elsewhere, away from people who have learned to cohabit with those who aren't exactly like them; people who might eat different foods, worship in a different place, or who might even have an accent. The "real America" happens only in places where everyone goes to the same church, and the same school, and the same diner after identical experiences at the same haircutter. The "real America" describes itself as "God's country," unironically, as if it actually believes that God is originally from Council Bluffs. The "real America" identifies as entirely Anglo, though it -- like me-- is an Irish-German mutt, made possible against the barriers in religious and cultural identity of our ancestors by the unifying hatred of the Anglos that those ancestors on both sides of the Reformation divide felt. The enemy of my enemy is my husband.

And, you know, I kind of get why the people of the middle watch those of us who reside at the borders with a wary eye. There are more of us than there are of them, for one thing. And, as a result of living at close quarters with people of many and varied backgrounds, our melting pot still has quite a few chunks of pure flavor in it. That's weird to a person who really, truly expects all people to be very like him, because all the people he's known so far are very like him.

[Edited to remove reference to innocent relatives who wanted nothing to do with intertubes in the first place.]

This takes care of friends and family I have in my 98% white hometown. But it emphatically does NOT take care of paid political commenters, with very expensive ivy or near-ivy educations, making truly offensive amounts of money to pull theories and data out of their butts and promptly fling their findings at their opponents or, in some cases, directly at the camera.

These people, if one should call them that, have taken the Francis Parkman train to employment. They are predominantly from the east coast, from much, much more well-connected families than any of you can claim. They have been granted access to expensive and exclusive education through the wealthy white affirmative action known as "legacy placements."
However, Francis Parkman actually dragged his bony Brahmin butt out to the midwest once in a while to put forth his racist and sexist theories of Anglo-Saxon superiority to the French and the Indians, because the French are all alarmingly feminine, unless they're being hypersexually masculine, and the Indians are all hyper-masculine and scary and bad, unless they're losing like a bunch of chicks which makes them less scary but still bad. And Francis Parkman was talking to people who were still identifying as Anglo because that's what they actually were, not what they were trying to be. He and his audience were "Anglo-Saxon," though from different sets of the Anglo-Saxon American experience. These bastards sit in New York or DC, and flap their fool jowls about "the real America," and they use Parkman's logic almost exactly (with some words changed as necessary), but they don't have the integrity to say what Parkman did say and think. The gist of which being something like, "We are alike, you and I, in that I am the master class to which you as the servant class owe allegiance. I will use you to fight for me, and you will use me to think for you." And this offends me as a person who comes from New York, and currently lives near DC, because if you think that 60% of the population of this country don't count as "real Americans" because of where they live, you should probably bite me. But it also offends me, because this logic, that once was being spewed forth from the lips of Francis Parkman was used against our common ancestors (my cousins and mine), for the purpose of preventing them from participating in America. Ironically, this logic played well at the borders and made life quite impossible for a number of the ancestors, which is why the German and Irish menaces went west to live in the wilderness, thus becoming today's politically expedient "real America."

I wonder how many generations it will take before a Spanish community in Kansas is up in arms in the Parkman way because of the sudden rush of Somebody elses coming into their community.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Navel-Gazing Washington Moments

My new residence within view of the Beltway makes me feel somehow obliged to write about politics. Yet, I've been reluctant to write about this political season for a number of reasons. One of these is the general pointlessness of my holding forth on such subjects. I mean, it's not exactly as if my biases are hidden here. Anyone who knows me even a little knows that I wouldn't vote for a republican if he held my entire family hostage. Those who know me slightly better can tell you I wouldn't vote for a libertarian if he held only the family I like hostage. I mean, it's not like whichever democratic candidate will have to convince me to vote D over Witty Dominionist, Johnny Hothead and Delusional Gnome. *

I could comment on the MSM coverage of this year, I suppose. I mean, Tweety is a horse's ass, but we knew that. Many other media guys have sexist and racist underbellies that are showing only now, but we suspected something like that would happen, too. CNN's John Roberts can be a seasoned newsman, but fail to ask a necessary and completely friggin obvious follow-up question when Witty Dominionist says in defense of his traitorous plan to replace the Constitution of the United States of America with Pharisee Rules for Peasantry and Chicks "For now, I think we need amendments to outlaw abortion and strengthen marriage." I mean, my middle schoolers know that 'for now' means that there's an undisclosed something coming down the pike immediately after 'now,' and they are sufficiently intellectually curious to ask about it. That this CNN twit manages to cash a paycheck while being such a dumbass in public is vexing, but sadly not a surprise anymore. Several of the people who live in my building are reporters, and I occasionally ask them -- in a much nicer way than I will express here -- why their more famous colleagues are such candy-asses, but they claim not to know. So, our fourth estate is in ruins. But we knew that, too.

There probably is something worth saying about living in a state where the primaries will matter for the first time in over thirty years. My neighbors, many of whom are very sober, quiet people, are losing their minds. I get pamphlets and emergency notices slipped under my door and in my mailbox every day. When standing in the lobby, when getting our mail, when walking to our cars we get into conversations about politics, and who's voting for whom and why. I generally try not to have these conversations with people, because I have alienated people I love while arguing in what I thought was a reasonable and dispassionate manner. So, clearly my gauge is off. But at this time, in this place, people will not accept "I don't know" or "Hey! Isn't that the most adorable squirrel you've ever seen?" as answers to "Who are you for?." They demand answers. Which is kind of exciting, that they are excited.

However, I am a contrarian at my very core, I guess, because I can't whip up excitement of my own this time. And I usually get excited over every possible political vote. I mean, city council stuff has been known to send me into high dudgeon. This presidential cycle is different, though. I want answers, and I'm getting slogans. From everybody. In the past, I think sloganeering would have worked for me. Hell, I know it did work. I am not the same voter I was a few years ago. The past few years have made me rhetoric-resistant. So, I am now in the "whatever, just as long as it's not a republican hate-monger" phase of voter apathy.

Or, maybe it's like last year when the amorphous "they" started playing Christmas music and having Holiday sales before Halloween. It ruined the whole season for me. I refused to get all excited that early.

I will say this, though. It is very interesting to be walking around the produce section of the supermarket and look up and see known king-makers perusing the citrus. It's not at all like running into Tommy Tune and Stephen Sondheim in NYC. Pundits tend to be much shorter than Tommy Tune, for example, and I never cross the street for fear of saying something stupid in front of a pundit like I did with Sondheim.

* How much do I love that I had to go without a pronoun in that sentence, because neither gendered pronoun would work?