March 28, 2014

Billy Graham's sad legacy

I watched yesterday as World Vision back-pedaled from their statement that they would no longer categorize marriage as just hetero.  As Fred Clark from slactivist noted, it isn't as if they haven't had gay people working for them.  And I don't even think they were one of the organizations that required people to say they weren't gay (lie).  But they made a move, and the response was overwhelming.

I kind of understand the hard core evangelical response to homosexuality.  At least at one level.  But what I don't get is that evangelicals lined up to stop supporting poor children through World Vision because of this statement.  A statement that had nothing to do with the mission of helping the poor, and nothing at all to do with why those supposed evangelical Christians were sponsoring those people.  But crossing that Rubicon is simply not acceptable in the evangelical tribe right now.  It will change, mind you, but for now, it is a step too far.

But what I can't forgive is that evangelicals would bully World Vision into backing down.  But they won't even speak about cuts in food stamps.  They refused to speak about torture. They cheered war.  They avoid and ignore the healthcare of poor women.  They stand by while Republicans actually cheer people not getting healthcare and openly encourage people not to sign up.  But by God they will stand up when someone says that gay people are ok.


And the best example of this is the bigoted and awful Franklin Graham.  I have never been that big of a fan of his father, but Billy at least learned from his political missteps.  To a degree, anyway.  He still consorted with the anti-semitic Nixon, but he kept those ideas private, and he apologized when they were made public.

His hateful son is completely different.  Fred says it best in this post: Franklin Graham’s hateful lies and opportunism winning Huzzahs from white evangelicals, but it is worth reading and worth watching a bigot in action.  And a bigot who claims to be attacked for his faith.  I have news for you, Mr. Graham.  You are under attack from the left and gay groups because you say things such as that gay couples don't adopt children because they want to love them and care for them--they "recruit children" into their "cause."

Hateful.  UnChristian.  Unloving.  And everytime he does this, he gets cheered by the evangelicals who observe.  And none of them know why they are losing.

March 21, 2014

On developing new paths for history phds

This week has been frustrating for several reasons.  I am struggling to get traction with non-profits who don't seem to know what to do with my skills, and unfortunately, I still don't know enough to offer.  I have offered my services to several people locally, and I don't seem to get much in the way of feedback.  Part of that is they are overworked and underfunded, and part of that is my own lack of knowledge.

Second, my work on the arts board has been frustrating for reasons I think my father would appreciate.  After years of community organizing, he often talked about the difficulties of getting volunteers organized and moving.  I am working with a committee of really good people who are really busy and who often, actually usually, don't even respond to my emails.  Again, for most of them, I get that, but I had a pretty terse interaction with one other board member who pushed me into this particular role, but now can't find time to even email me back.  I think I figured out how to mollify him, but even that email went unacknowledged.

But the cherry on the top started with another recurring dream about my former profession.  That was followed by several people posting this story about the American Historical Association's grant to broaden career options for history Phds.  I suspect this is a good thing, mind you, as the numbers continue to show that my experience is far from unique and is closer to the norm.  But I found it incredibly frustrating to see this link coming from tenured or tenure track faculty friends.  I know they thought they were being helpful, but they weren't.  And they couldn't even see it.  I posted a friendly warning that I would be snarky to those with jobs posting something like this, and the only ones who "liked" the post were those who are outside tenure.  I suspect those inside were a bit taken back and didn't know how to take it.  As I said, this project is probably positive and even helpful.  But when someone inside posts it, it comes across as "let them eat cake."  "Oh good, there is help for those."

Personally, I can do without the condescending paternalism from people who are convinced they are simply better than those of us who didn't make it inside.  Spare me.

March 16, 2014

Reinvention update

It has been since last summer that I realized I had to reinvent myself.  The academic world spoke loud and clear in their decision that I was not one of them.  That was painful.  It still is at times.  I have recurring dreams where I confront the Community College people and remind them that I am actually a better teacher than they are--and that they betrayed me at a pretty deep level.  There are times when I want to send a letter, or email, or anonymous fax.

I don't do any of that, of course.  I know full well that will accomplish nothing.  Worse than nothing, it would fulfill a narrative that I was unfit for their job.

Those dreams are fewer now, which is nice.  I still have dreams where I struggle to explain being a failure.  I don't feel like that when I am awake, but think there are still vestiges of this sense of "not measuring up."  I felt that often when I was around tenure-track or tenured faculty friends.  It is that sense that my friend M labeled the "cult of academia."  Those inside often cannot even imagine qualified people being outside the cult, even as they know full well the arbitrary and capricious nature of the job market.  Perhaps that is necessary for their own mental health, I don't know.

I had two such interactions of late.  One was at a pilates class, where I am trying to work on my range of motion in my frozen left shoulder (no surgery planned for the immediate future, so that is great).  One of the ladies who attends regularly is a professor who teaches in Film and Video Studies.  I used to teach a film history class that was cross listed, and attended several of their meetings.  She and I didn't have a relationship, so I am more forgiving of what happened.  But the upshot was that she has no recognition that she has ever met me.  I am outside the cult, and so one of the ordinaries--the muggles.  Then yesterday, SOF and I took the dogs to a school yard for some frisbee exercise, and met a philosophy professor walking his dog.  He too didn't even recognize me, even though he and I have had several conversations.  Perhaps it is the facial scruff, or hat.  Or perhaps it is cult blindness.

Both of those stung, though not at the level of old hurts.  I am moving on.  I will continue to teach when I get the opportunities, but have pretty much lost my love of academia.  I now read colleagues complaining about students, or administrations, or about the pressure of for-profit colleges--and I have lost sympathy.

So what am I doing?  I am working on the board of a small non-profit organization.  We put on concerts, art exhibits, and poetry readings.  We manage a historic building.  I love the work, even though it costs me money.  I love meeting the artists, and don't even mind hauling chairs and setting up stages.

That got me thinking.  Last fall, I often told people that I was interested in volunteering for non-profit social justice, but I had "some physical issues and didn't see myself hauling food or stocking shelves."  Part of that was true.  My shoulder was painful.  But part of that was about pride and fear.  I have a Ph.d.  I am a doctor.  I am a published professor.  I didn't want to carry groceries or sweep floors.  I can admit that.

But the arts non-profit made me rethink that.  I started volunteering well before I joined the board, and I volunteered because I love the mission and I love the music.  I realized that could apply to the food bank, and the homeless shelter as well.  I had no problem hauling chairs or stages or picking up trash for the concerts.  No reason why I couldn't do the basics for another mission I value.  With that in mind, I did my first volunteer session with our state food bank last week. I spent about 3 hours sorting food with about 20 other strangers.  It was strangely intense and even fun.  I then toured Norman's only homeless shelter (the other one just closed) and found myself amazed at their work.  All with one hand tied behind their back (no state funding, and limited federal money).  They feed people on the street, in their kitchen.  They find temporary housing for single mothers and other homeless.

I had visions of doing consulting for non-profits.  But I realized I didn't know what to offer them, because I didn't know what they needed.  I am nopeful that volunteering will, as it did with the arts organization, help me understand where I can contribute.

March 12, 2014

Gun culture more important than poor people

From what I have seen, gun culture dominates everything.  No need to feed the poor, or help the sick, but we by god will put more guns in more hands.  What could possibly go wrong?

Campus gun bill sparks spirited discussion | News OK

March 10, 2014

Gun Culture

George Zimmerman Signs Autographs At A Florida Gun Show | ThinkProgress

Wayne LaPierre's poster child.  Famous for only one thing--killing a young black man.  Should make all the 2nd Amendment people just burst with pride.

March 6, 2014

Sigh. Crazy town.

LaPierre Warns Of Vast Media-Political Conspiracy Out To Get NRA

Of course, he is partly right.  Rational people all over the place think that LaPierre is nuts and irresponsible.  Just like his pal Ted Nugent.

This is gun culture.  For all the legitimate defenses of second amendment rights, the gun culture never looks at itself, only at critics.  It is never wrong.  It is never to blame for anything.  Only liberals who distrust guns can cause crime or accidental death or suicide by gun.  Never ever irresponsible sociopaths like LaPierre.

The moment the conservative Republicans jumped the shark

And even as I write that, I know that isn't true.  The conservative right saying something dumb is as common as Steve getting defensive when I dare criticize gun owners.

No, the right wing will continue to say dumb stuff--as long as the Party cares more about appeasing the base than proposing good policy.  From the guy who would have been VP, and the guy the right points to as their "budget-guru," comes this gem:

Paul Ryan: Free School Lunch Means Poor Parents Don't Care About Kids

Perhaps a little unfair (the headline, here), but the essentially meaning from Paul Ryan's quote appears to be a deep and horrifying misunderstanding about our social safety net.  I have heard this from others, but still.  The basis for this misunderstanding is the idea that our society never really needed a social safety net, and that the creation of one has created poverty and needy-ness.  Hence you have people saying stuff like, "before the New Deal, communities cared for poor people.  We didn't need no damn government program."

Of course the reality is that communities tried, just as they do today, to take care of the needy, but they failed miserably when the entire economy collapsed.  Turns out that private charities exist in the same economy that produces need, and when the economy goes down, so do donations and fundraisers.  This isn't rocket science, but seems to be something that needs to be said, so I will say it again.  When the economy struggles, so do those agencies that try to help the needy.  Not only are they likely to see a decline in their donations, but they will see a big increase in the demand for their assistance.  Because the economy is in bad shape.  See?  Of course you do, but evidently the GOP's "budget guru" does not.  He seems to think that school lunches either causes poverty, or reveals that liberals want kids to eat government cheese rather than a lovingly made pb&j.

It is a dumb thing to say.  But one that he will repeat, I am guessing, as it plays to what has become a very dumb audience at the annual CPAC conference.

March 1, 2014

The de-evangelization of American culture

For those uninterested in religion, or uninterested in my my grappling with my religion, feel free to just ignore.  It isn't exactly new territory.

We are planning to see one of our favorite singer-songwriters (Mark Erelli) tomorrow night.  We first saw him in the waning days of 2007, when my view on the world was pretty dark.  I think Zalm suggested Erelli's music, and it did help.  Yet, here we are almost 7 years later, and I feel even darker.  Here in Oklahoma, our Governor wants to further cut income taxes while she also advocates cutting funding for Medicaid, and other social safety net features.  She has the backing of the religiously conservative community.  In Arizona, religious conservatives pushed the Orwellian "religious freedom" bill that would allow them to discriminate against gay people.  As EJ Dionne put it, it is the process of de-evangelization. People from a faith that calls them to reach out to the leper and to feed the poor, and help the marginalized--are claiming as a part of their faith--the right to deny service to gay people because they don't like them.  There is no verse to support this.  Hell, there are verses supporting slavery, but there is no verse that supports turning your back on people simply because you don't like them.  As Dionne notes, this is turning an entire generation against people of faith as they identify religion with intolerance and homophobia.

I remember the emphasis on "witness" during my church years.  It took on a rather paranoid aspect where we had to be mindful of every little slight that might "lead someone astray," even if the offense was minor or not even completely wrong.  Dancing might be ok, but it could be wrong if it caused "someone else to stumble."  We were to be the "light unto the world."

Flash forward nearly 35 years, and the same denomination openly endorses torture, and openly denigrates working poor and those needing healthcare.  They vote every year for people who are openly racist or homophobic, or who despise sexual women, and they have no problem with cuts in food stamps, or Medicaid, or for the disabled, and they openly defend the people who have everything.  De-evangelization.

Evangelical Rachel Held Evans says it very well:

And yet despite enjoying majority status, significant privilege, and unchallenged religious freedom in this country, we evangelical Christians have become known as a group of people who cry “persecution!” upon being wished “Happy Holidays" by a store clerk.  
We have become known as a group of people who sees themselves perpetually under attack, perpetually victimized, and perpetually entitled, a group who, ironically, often responds to these imagined disadvantages by advancing legislation that restricts the civil liberties of other people. 
And even better here:

The truth is, evangelical Christians have already "lost" the culture wars.And it's not because the "other side" won or because evangelicals have failed to protect our own religious liberties.  Evangelicals lost the culture wars the moment they committed to fighting them, the moment they decided to stop washing feet and start waging war.   
And I fear that we've lost not only the culture wars, but also our Christian identity, when the  "right to refuse" service has become a more sincerely-held and widely-known Christian belief than the impulse to give it.  
 She could add opposition to the poor, or attacks on women, or believing that healthcare is a privilege to that "right to refuse."

Just when I find myself completely without hope for the faith in which I was raised, I read this amazingly powerful post from Ta-Nehisi Coates about his interview with the mother of slain teenager Jordan Davis.  Davis was shot by a white male who objected to the young black man playing loud rap music in his car.  Instead of moving, or ignoring it (this was at a convenience store, btw, not outside his hotel room), Michael Dunn pulled out his gun and shot into a car full of black kids--all of whom were unarmed.  As the car retreated with the bleeding Jordan Davis inside, Dunn continued to shoot at the vehicle.  The jury convicted him of "attempted murder," but could not decide if he intended to kill Jordan.  Unbelievable.  Unfathomable.  (This racist ass is part of gun culture too, but that is not the point of this post.)

But back to this post.  Like Coates, though for far fewer personal reasons, I found the verdict outrageous, and I find Dunn's actions reprehensible.  But read the discussion with the slain boy's mother.

She said, "It baffles our mind too. Don’t think that we aren’t angry. Don’t think that I am not angry. Forgiving Michael Dunn doesn't negate what I’m feeling and my anger. And I am allowed to feel that way. But more than that I have a responsibility to God to walk the path He's laid. In spite of my anger, and my fear that we won’t get the verdict that we want, I am still called by the God I serve to walk this out."