where I’m from

Tommy said to my friends: “You’re funny!” 🙂 This was after Kelly regaled us with the joke about a man returning to college and learning something about logic. She went on to talk about racial tensions in Kansas:
Me and Steph went to a KKK rally in Topeka….”
I had to interrupt: “We went to protest the rally!”
Meanwhile, Kay dispensed her wisdom:

“If you can’t do anything else about life, you might as well laugh at it.”

Later, at Frances’ pool party, a bunch of hooligans from the old days gathered. Tammy teased Kathy’s kids about horseback riding: “Merry-go-rounds don’t count.” Someone (was it Lori?) sprained her ankle the last time she rode a horse.
How’d you do that?
I was drunk and fell off.
Everyone told me I looked better without the hair. No surprise. 🙂
The hours drifted by, filled with easy conversation. When I returned to Kansas City two years ago for my nephew’s funeral, it did not even occur to me that some of my old friends might appear – I had been away for more than two decades, hadn’t everyone else scattered too? Nope, Kay said, I was the only one. I hoped for a chance to tell everyone how much their friendship means to me, the stability I gain from knowing that they are all still there. We were not in a sentimental space, just a casual one – like the old days.
After the long lazy day, five of us scooted off to catch Gay Pride. In the end, it did not matter at all that festivities ended at 10 pm instead of midnight – our arrival at the Liberty Memorial outdoor venue at 9:54 created another adventure. We moved on to
Organizers pitched this as the 30th year, which is a slight exaggeration. When we – me, Bill Todd, Marc Hein, and a very few others – got together in 1988 to plan a Gay and Lesbian Awareness event (GALA), there had not been any pride events in the KC area for several years. We did know they had occurred before, but – as far as I know – had no contact with any former organizers. Maybe some of the original organizers reappeared after I moved away? We held a first GALA event with a measly 200 participants, which grew to 500 the second year. I returned to town for the third year’s event – an estimated 3000 and the first ever parade. Marc insisted I ride in the lead car (some people whom I didn’t know weren’t so happy about that but others agreed).
This was my first experience with the humility necessary to be a public figure. I use this concept deliberately – because I failed, and the lesson has never left.
I had no part in planning that year. My activism had led me to democratic politics and national-level organizing in the lesbian community, I had been fired (literally because of activism) and moved away. Marc and I talked about AIDS and the gay community for most of the ride. He was expert at setting the pace – I felt we us moving so slowly! The route was long…I lost track of time. Suddenly we topped a hill and a huge roar greeted us – we were at Southmoreland Park and a huge crowd spotted us the moment we came into view. I heard them before I saw them. The noise nearly compelled me to stand – in fact, I struggled with the visceral shock: this moment of collective celebration deserved cheering and I was the one in the only position to act as cheerleader. All it would have taken was for me to stand up and wave my arms – to use my body as a sign of triumph.
I could not do it. I was too embarrassed. I felt doubt – was I even supposed to be there? Should it have been someone else in the passenger seat of the lead car? I could not let go of my own ego and allow myself – my Self, in the guise of my Body – to symbolize for all of us that extraordinary historical moment.
This year, like last, there were tens of thousands of people celebrating pride in our community. Most events were at the largest outdoor venue in Kansas City (short of a sports stadium), rife with symbolic value. From those humble single afternoon programs, the event now spans an entire weekend. The estimate was thirty thousand people, of all stripes, religions, races, and ages: a human rainbow.

eugenics (sneak attack?)

“We would really like to speak to
somebody who feels they would
choose the deaf embryo given the choice, and
give them a chance to explain their reasons for doing so.”

A Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is up for debate and passage in the United Kingdom which uses language about in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in which, critics charge, “a deaf person or embryo with the genes for deafness does not have equal status (‘must not be preferred’) to a person without the genes for deafness.”
The specific wording at question is in Clause 14 (linked above), and – extremely alarming if you think Deaf people have as much a right “to be” as any other human being – “a number of commentary notes and ‘consultation’ documents that indicate Deaf people are being used as an example of what this amendment would entail in practice.”
Filmmakers are now working on a documentary on “the issues arising” from this Clause. (The documentary will presumably include concerns of other communities, for instance those considered with the categoraization and treatment of gender related abnormalities.) Kate of Popkorn offers to interested parties in the U.S. and U.K. an open invitation to comment or participate in the documentary. She does say that in the current version, “Deafness would be included as an ‘abnormality’, therefore any parents would be forced to choose embryos with hearing genes as opposed to those with deaf genes. This is further elaborated upon in the official explanatory notes of the bill…”

an info-sec epiphany

from The Spymaster, a report on the US Intelligence Community by Lawrence Wright for The New Yorker (January 14, 2008).

Ed Giorgio, a security consultant who worked at the N.S.A. under [current Director of Intellgence Mike] McConnell, and who is the only person to have been the nation’s chief code breaker and its chief code maker, said, “Early on, Mike had what many directors of the N.S.A. have near the end of their tenure — that is, an info-sec epiphany.

Giorgio warned me [reporter at large Lawrence Wright], “We have a saying in this business:

‘Privacy and security are a zero-sum game.’ “

I [Wright] asked McConnell if he believed that Al Qaeda was really the greatest threat America faces.

No, no, no, not at all,” he said. “Terrorism can kill a lot of people, but it can’t fundamentally challenge the ability of the nation to exist. Fascism could have done that. Communism could have. I think our issue going forward is more engagement with the world in terms of keeping it on a reasonable path, so another ism doesn’t come along and drive it to one extreme or another. And we have to have some balance in terms of equitable distribution of wealth, containment of contagious disease, access to energy supplies, and development of free markets. There are national-security ramifications to global warming.”

the bubble thins…

Friends of my friend were kidnapped in Colombia over the weekend.
Maria Claudia popped up in chat Monday, “Today is a weird day,” she wrote.
“Why?”
“Two of my best friends were kidnapped last night.”
“Oh my god.”
It is real. Violence creeps closer, no matter how hard we try to keep it at bay, no matter how thickly we deny that it could happen to us or those we love.
They were on vacation at a calm, quiet community along the coast of Colombia – their homeland – and took a boat ride with other tourists (a total of six were taken). Maria Claudia sent me a photo of the young couple, they look So Happy Together!

so happy together2.jpg

I’ve been keeping their faces in mind, envisioning them safe, imagining processes that will lead to their release. A pastiche of memories and associations float in and out of consciousness. The young man in Qabatiya, Palestine, who argued there is no solution for the Palestinians except to increase the violence until the world forces Israel out; the apparently base “human” instinct of aggression and need for power/control – and how this is exacerbated by constant and unrelenting exposure to the prosperity of others, and how we, the others, persist with our pleasures: intent upon our own islands of happiness amidst great suffering.
FARC. Sure, I know the acronym. Well, I’ve read it. Heard it. The Spanish acronym translates to Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The history of the group is complicated – associated with a communist movement and the illegal drug trade. FARC has been around since 1964; they are strong and organized enough to run an internal government (called a secretariat) with large-scale organizational strategy conferences, and have been involved in international peace processes. In other words, they are not just going to go away.
Their tactics are abominable, but their ideological goals are not – at least, if they intend to live what they say they seek, then they are in a weird bedfellow relationship with many contemporary peace activists and anti-neoliberal-capitalists. As I say, IF they are primarily motivated by “fighting against privatization of natural resources [and] multinational corporations,” then these are aims shared widely. That they use paramilitary violence (while ostensibly arguing for its end), is qualitatively – but not necessarily substantively – different from the official uses of military (and other) violence sanctioned by democratic and communist governments worldwide. The “other violence” is less overtly horrific, but the violences done by policy are part of what FARC ostensibly says they are against. I’m hedging, here, for a couple of reasons.

  1. I am just learning the blunt outline of the conflict, let alone any of its nuances.
  2. If Ana and Alf are to be released, it will be because there are ways to talk with FARC, not only against them.
  3. To talk with them means to allow them some benefit of doubt.
  4. What kind of doubt? That there is a nobility buried somewhere underneath the deliberate and active use of physical, mental, and emotional terrorizing.
  5. On the chance that those honorable intentions can be surfaced and given life in ways that alter the contours of the opposing sides,
  6. with the hope that the conflict can actually shift, in order that
  7. others may be saved through the prevention of future acts of violence and
  8. the aspirations of the FARC community can be legitimately satisfied.

I cannot help but draw parallels to the situation in Palestine. Israel must withdraw. This is the physical and institutional fact. Israelis must move out of the only-always-temporary comfort of The Bubble, must surrender their attachment to the story/history of their own horrific victimization. We in the US must do the same regarding our intent to bolster our status regardless of the fate of others – especially those we know are different; those who think, feel, believe, and perceive the world on other terms than those with which we are most familiar.
We – humanity – must find a way for difference, plurality, and heterogeneity to coexist.

busted :-(

One of my students caught me out yesterday. He’d just announced he would miss class on Thursday because it was Passover, and I’d hesitated. I could fudge, and say I hesitated moreso because of the two additional students who immediately chimed in that they would also miss class, sensing a run on an easy excused absence. (Indeed, another student then announced, “If they’re not coming, I’m not either!”)
I caught and corrected myself, but there it was, the truth of a stereotype hanging out there for all to see. This young man, to all visible clues an African-American, is also Jewish. Duh! It’s not like I don’t know the fact that the largest percentage of the world’s Jewish population is of a skin tone other than pale pinkish-white! Yet my personal demographic exposure, combined with common US mass media representations, set me up for a textbook case of momentary essentialization.
How embarrassing. This NPR broadcast on Blacks, the Jewish Faith and Hanukkah addresses the “misperception that black people are not Jewish.”

social justice questioning

A discussion about Christian hegemony and the new Narnia movie is taking place on the social justice listserv. Barbara interjected these questions into a communication process that was bearing hints of polarization and othering:
What are the goals of this discussion on our list?
How have people experienced the discussion?
Do participants feel that their perspective has been extended, enlarged, stretched?
Have we been able to be inside other’s perspectives as a way of extending our own?
Obviously my questions reflect certain values?
Which brings me to another question: what values do we bring to the discussion?