Archive for the ‘liberal’ Category

Out of Order

July 30, 2007

In short: An individual was arrested and charged with a hate crime for flushing a Koran in a toilet on the campus of Pace University [AP].

Ah, good old Pace. He clearly deserves some sort of punishment, that building has a ridiculous shortage of toilets (they were rather sketch to begin with – or maybe that is just NYC in July…).

Vandalism is the offense (and perhaps theft – as noted below). That certainly needs to be addressed. The question is whether a particular intent – hatred – should be considered an aggravating factor to the crime. [Note that nobody knows the intent, we’re all just, perhaps unfairly, speculating.]

With hate crime legislation, hate is added as a factor to redress the harm done to (an implicitly minority) community, the hostile environment the action fosters. As commenters note, “it’s the affect it has on that worshipper that makes it a hate crime.”

This is one of many reasons hate crime legislation is so dangerous.

Sticks and stones aren’t the only things that hurt. Speech hurts. Consider the Piss Christ debate. Believers frequently advanced the argument that this NEA-funded art fostered a hostile atmosphere toward Christianity. As the Justice said, “It is often true that one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.”

Fine. Christians aren’t really an oppressed minority, even if they sometimes claim to be one. But artistic expression has run up against interpretations of Islam before. “A Koran with a Buddha shape carved into it (a reference to the Bamiyan Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban)” was removed from Roq la Rue. Or even political expression, when a gay artist burned an antique Koran (worth $60k) to protest its homophobic content. Perhaps both speakers were hate-free. But suppose otherwise. Do the intolerant really deserve fewer speech rights than the rest of us? (Mill would say no – the best way to show them error is to debate them freely.) PZ Meyers could certainly be construed to ‘hate’ religion. Does that limit his speech?

I really like books, and I really like community, but I am an even biger supporter of the pointed criticism of ideas. There is a long and proud tradition of treating undue sanctimony with disrespectful insolence. It is, perhaps, even central to debates about the place of religion in society. The pomp holiness of the devout is best countered with a little irreverence. But a free debate cannot have legal limits enforced by one side.

Attacking beliefs through criticism (even creative responses) is legitimate, necessary, and hopefully protected speech. At least it should be.



email naming conventions and marriage

July 24, 2006

from my friend group’s forums:

many of us have emails, mainly gmail, that we plan to keep for…well, indefinitely.  and these are often some combination of first name and last name.  i feel like we’re around the first generation getting these things before marriage.  will people who change their names change their emails as well?  Will fewer people change their name b/c of things like email and online identities that are already established?

this is certainly part of a general trend of having a more established adult identity before marriage.  we’re getting married later, farther into our careers, more settled into our lives, and so every change has a new depth to it.  you hear snippets of the light side of this – whose apartment?  whose couch?  its the substance of sitcoms.  and then there are the biggies – whose city?  whose career move?  enter feminist literature and marriage counselors.

but marriage and last names have this special significance.  it is part of identity.  rejecting the idea of becoming mrs “john smith”, my mother kept her maiden name.  but we kids got dad’s surname.  moving another step, my roommate has a hyphenated last name.  which, i hope, is a one-generation solution (because nancy abravanel-greer-…-hoffman is unwieldy).  two of my friends picked a new last name to start their family with, neither being terribly happy with the ones they had.  almost instinctively, upon hearing this, everyone questions their relationship with their families.  i know a few people with their mother’s surname.

of course, on the forums, things had to get more complex:

Guys out there, how open to that idea would you be if your wife proposed [using her surname for the children]?  Some of the guys I’ve talked with seemed to think that was too radical and preferred the patriarchal naming scheme “because it’s traditional”

d’oh.  my instinctive reaction was shock.  i have a strong family identity around our name.  it symbolizes a lot to me, a sense of togetherness that unites a family separated by thousands of miles.  we’ve traced the family back generations (even finding a 15th century relative in italy).  we have an interesting family lore about the name changing when great-grandpa immigrated from greece.  i feel that it is part of our story.

of course, there is no reason that this story should just be traced through the men.  and its sort of delusional, i suppose.  family reunions have at least four (major) last names, and i don’t share a surname with some of the relatives i feel closest to.

in the end, i wish i could say i would be totally fine with it, but i really don’t know.  it isn’t quite as simple as ‘whats in a name’. 

[update: for women in academia, how possible is it to change last names, once your work is known under the maiden name?  given paired names, i suppose one could check how difficult ‘making a name for yourself’ can be, based on citation patterns… hmm.  i know doctors experience lots of red tape for name changes.]

[update2:  doing more reading, and something bothers me.  all this ‘it is easier for the children‘ stuff is junk.  mom and dad have different last names.  never felt like less of a family.  we even have different religions, races, birthparents… still a family.  generally, seems like the consensus is vanity / clerical.  odd, no?  still seems complex to me.]

this message brought to you by facts

July 20, 2006
From C&J on DailyKos:

CHEERS to breaking the spell. (via Raw Story) Congressman Gil Gutknecht (R-MN) on Iraq June 15:

“Members, now is not the time to go wobbly. Let’s give victory a chance.”

Congressman Gil Gutknecht on Iraq after actually visiting the place:

“The condition there is worse than I expected. I have to be perfectly candid: Baghdad is a serious problem. […] Baghdad is worse today than it was three years ago. […] We learned it’s not safe to go anywhere outside of the Green Zone any part of the day. […] All of the information we receive sometimes from the Pentagon and the State Department isn’t always true. […] What I think we need to do more is withdraw more Americans”

Welcome to the reality, kiddo. Ain’t it a kick??

and this is exactly why the bush administration has to censor all the facts, and filter out the bad stuff. this is why the media’s seeming inability to get behind the story, and do substantial analysis, this is why that matters. a congressman shouldn’t have to go to iraq and see reality firsthand to get the facts.

satire (the end of it)

July 12, 2006
between the dead baby jokes, racist stories, and sexist comments, my group of friends is pretty hard to understand. for us, every bit of it is satire. the anti-semitic jokes come from my friend who is deeply in love with the daughter of a rabbi (and strongly jewish herself). the sexist comments come from the guys who head to marches for women’s rights and are NOW members. while our weekly thursday party in college was called ladies night, we all understood it as a joke. sure, by senior year it was a pick-up party for both sexes, but we named it sophomore year, when it was 9 guys getting drunk and watching cartoons of talking fast food.

so meeting us now is a bit like jumping in mid-conversation. without the history, none of it makes sense. this happens in all conversations, of course. wandering around town, i pick up bits and pieces of conversations, and its not uncommon to hear just the wrong thing at just the wrong moment, and really start to wonder. especially if you have strong expectations.

on a related note, reading through pharyngula today, i found out that one man’s satire is another man’s reality. i think there is actually much more going on here than is discussed. way back, i wrote an article on hell houses where i inappropriately cited a satirical site as a real hell house (i can’t find the old article). the satire, to me, looked entirely believeable as authentic. it was just one step further than everything else i’d read. at this point, reading the real stuff about hell houses, i was too shocked. it looked like nothing was outside the realm of possible anymore. [i’ll admit, i was also being a lazy writer and should have source checked the article – the fault really is mine, but even my editors and peer reviewers thought it was authentic, which says something about the universality of being blindsided by something so alien .]

i imagine something like this happened to this pete fellow at march together. a bit worse, since most of us know what the onion is. [side note: maybe he’s too close to it, but why not say “honest mistake” and move on? (he didn’t)]. i just wish the whole affair was a bit tempered. as-is, comments are like pointing at a train wreck and laughing.

but this just keeps happening. my college roommate and i have a longstanding debate about Maxim. i think its satire. i just can’t read that junk at face value. he thinks its offensive. i read the articles and laugh, because they’re preposterous from my point of view. i understand that people read them seriously, and i haven’t got a clue what the editor thinks, but its not the material thats offensive (to me), its how people read it that bothers me. if everyone read it and laughed, i’d be quite content. (he thinks its inherently offensive, and that i’m not actually reading it and laughing, but that at some level it reinforces my latent sexist worldview – even though he accepts that i’m a feminist. its a complex argument, with a very different idea of thinking, as i understand him).

i can’t claim to have insight from The Book (of erdos) that locks this one up, but pieces keep falling into place. in college, the super-self-involved theatre crowd became obsessed with the notion of “post-ironic”. not being in the conversation (and thinking they were all pompous jerks anyway), i mocked the very idea of the term. but thinking it over, its a workable concept. more than a few people i know date the death of irony sometime around when henry kissinger was awarded the nobel peace prize. its not just that the joke can’t be topped. we’re just too shocked. most english classes shrug off swift’s a modest proposal. today’s cheers and jeers starts with a letter about the flag and i can imagine it stated earnestly. or this liberty with a cross statue, which is the sort of thing used to mock someone, not something they go and build themselves. same deal with the homosexuality conversation referenced below.

the size of the shock betrays the real cause. when the premises of perspectives radically differ, and when they’ve been developed in isolation from other conversations, satire is effecively DOA. i wonder what other forms of communication are killed too. (abrupt ending, i know, but this is an unwieldy post as-is)


two notes:
(1) the same is pretty much true of contemporary art. unless you trace the conversation the artisitic community is having with itself since WWI (debateable starting point) –> the present, it really looks like senseless garbage. ‘postmodern’ authors are in the same boat (i think).
(2) nothing about this means to say i don’t think some premises belong exclusively to yahoos.