Jesurgislac’s Journal

January 19, 2009

The chief exercise of privilege

Privilege: an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools , and blank checks. (Unpacking the invisible knapsack – the original, on race privilege, straight privilege, class privilege, male privilege, cisgender privilege.)

The chief exercise of privilege is to ensure that people who do not have your privilege are ridiculed or condemned for speaking up, when the privileged can speak up on their behalf so much better.

I am thinking in part of the silencing of Gene Robinson, whose last-minute invite was supposed to symbolically content LGBT people for the center-stage honor of Rick Warren, but who was never to appear on the HBO broadcast of the event, nor even (apparently) on stage at the same time as Barack Obama himself. Obama will, we have been told, speak up for LGBT people: we needn’t worry our little heads about the silencing of our own. (Pam Spaulding confirms that silencing Bishop Robinson was planned by the Inauguration Committee, who specifically told HBO that the “pre-show” wasn’t part of the broadcast.)

And of other circumstances, other times, other exercises of privilege, which all amount to: Let me silence you. For your own good. You don’t frame the discussion right. I know what ought to be said, and you don’t.
(For the current example I was thinking of: the Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of DOOM.)

January 16, 2009

Rick Warren wants to be an inspirational leader of a movement that will change the world…

…just like Adolf Hitler was.

No. Not kidding. The two most oppressive problems the world suffers from, apparently, are ‘spiritual poverty’ and ‘egocentric leadership’.

Via, Bruce Wilson, Huffington Post:

“In 1939, in a stadium much like this, in Munich Germany, they packed it out with young men and women in brown shirts, for a fanatical man standing behind a podium named Adolf Hitler, the personification of evil.

And in that stadium, those in brown shirts formed with their bodies a sign that said, in the whole stadium, “Hitler, we are yours.”

And they nearly took the world.

Lenin once said, “give me 100 committed, totally committed men and I’ll change the world.” And, he nearly did.

A few years ago, they took the sayings of Chairman Mao, in China, put them in a little red book, and a group of young people committed them to memory and put it in their minds and they took that nation, the largest nation in the world by storm because they committed to memory the sayings of the Chairman Mao.

When I hear those kinds of stories, I think ‘what would happen if American Christians, if world Christians, if just the Christians in this stadium, followers of Christ, would say ‘Jesus, we are yours’ ?

What kind of spiritual awakening would we have ? “

One like Rick Warren’s? Apparently, during his 2005 speech in the Anaheim stadium, Warren revealed he’d received a message from God. which led him to Psalm 72, “Solomon’s prayer for more influence… in Psalm 72 [Solomon] says ‘God, I want you to make me more influential. God, I want you to give me more power. I want you to bless my life more. God, I want you to spread the fame of my name through other countries.'”

In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.
He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.
The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.
Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.

“What kind of spiritual awakening would we have ?” What indeed?

January 13, 2009

Two days separation makes it safe

I don’t know whether it disturbed me worse: whether Rick Warren’s invitation was a classic mistake on the lines of “we’re BFF, I don’t need to vet him” or if Obama had Warren vetted and either didn’t care or approved of Warren’s beliefs about effective AIDS work, torture, and same-sex marriage.

For example: this interview in which Warren compares same-sex marriage to child molestation, incest, and polygamy; or Warren’s championing of Martin Ssempa, whose notion of fighting AIDS in Uganda is to burn condoms and preach abstinence – either of which should have been enough to eliminate Warren as a choice for this honour.

As Michelle Goldberg notes, same-sex marriage isn’t the only thing that one hopes Warren and Obama don’t agree on:

Meanwhile, while Warren says he opposes torture, he doesn’t treat the subject with anything like the zeal he accords gay marriage and abortion. As he recently told, he never even brought up the subject with the Bush administration, where he had considerable access. Just before the 2004 election, he sent out an e-mail to his congregation outlining the five issues that he considered “non-negotiable”. “In order to live a purpose-driven life – to affirm what God has clearly stated about his purpose for every person he creates – we must take a stand by finding out what the candidates believe about these five issues, and then vote accordingly,” he wrote. The issues were abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, cloning and euthanasia. Torture, apparently, is something that decent Christians can disagree on.

Was Obama genuinely ignorant of this? Was Warren’s selection just the first failure of the Obama administration to vet candidates?

Or did Obama know that Warren opposes effective AIDS campaigning in Africa, thinks torture is an issue that Christians can agree-to-disagree on, and that Warren is the kind of Christian homophobe decent people should want sidelined as a radical, not given this kind of central honour – and just not care?

January 8, 2009

What will Bush do when he retires?

His daddy’s rich friends will buy him a company for him to be the Decider of. He will be a non-voting shareholder with a token post on the board, who sits in his office all day and drinks.

After early-onset Alzheimers (alcoholism is reckoned to be a contributory factor) sets in, he will believe he is still the President, and will be upset when he no longer has Secret Service agents guarding him.

He will choke to death on his own vomit some time in the 2020s, and receive a magnificent state funeral. Assuming that the Republicans are still a viable party then, all sorts of them will say how he was the best President since Lincoln. Everything that’s gone wrong in Iraq since 2003 will be blamed on the Iraqis or on President Obama.

Since the Secret Service will continue to defend him till 2019, none of this should be taken as so much as a wish that he will come to any harm. “Congress changed the law in the 1990s so that any president elected after Jan. 1, 1997, and his or her spouse will receive the federal protection for only 10 years.” cite (There should be a comma after spouse.)

Apparently, Bush intends to spend at least the first 4 years of his retirement fundraising for a planned $300 million “structure” at Southern Methodist University, to be named after him, which will include a library, museum and policy institute. Once he’s raised enough in private funds to pay for the construction, the National Archives and Records Administration will take over the operation of the library and museum at federal expense. It’s supposed to be finished by 2013.

At least that’s when Bush probably plans to spread a “Mission Accomplished” banner over the building site, declare that “major contruction is finished”, and go back to the office space acquired for him by the General Services Administration, which, under the Former Presidents Act, will pay for the office suite and staff to assist him for the rest of his life.


…but I have a tiny wish that he ends his days in a cell at the Hague trying to convince the judge that he’s mentally unfit to stand trial.

November 9, 2008

Closing Guantanamo Bay

Twenty-four hours ago, I went to a demo organised by kids from my old school. (I didn’t take photos because I couldn’t find my camera, dammit.) They got support from Amnesty International and Stop the War, and from their headteacher (the school’s changed quite a bit since I was there!).

A lawyer talked about how the Bush administration’s consistent pattern, facilitated by lawyers in their service, had been to deny what they were doing, to minimize what they were doing, and to reframe what they were doing.

The MP for the constituency in which my old school stands, talked about how the UK Government had supported the US government’s lies and attack human rights.

Three students from the school made short and passionate speeches against the kidnappings and torture of the US: the last student also told Barack Obama – a message that I wish Obama could have heard – that this was Obama’s chance to prove he was truly going to change: to close down the gulags. To apologize to the victims who have suffered for so many years of American extra-judicial imprisonment. To give those against whom there is a case a fair trial.

To publish these people’s names: to admit they are there. The US government moves prisoners around the world, from one gulag to another.

To end this monstrous injustice that has become both a symbol of the US’s position in the world and a real horror for so many people who have spent years in the cages of the US and for the people who have lost kindred or friends to these cages.

The demo lasted half an hour: not long. We stood in the rain and sun and listened, a hundred or more of us. No reporter had attended, though several had been invited: apparently Guantanamo Bay is “not newsworthy”.

My Obama Wish List: 4

What’s next?

4. Investigate the 84 Bush-appointed U.S. Attorneys who were not sacked

At least nine U.S. Attorneys were sacked because they did not comply with the Bush administration’s orders to be partisan and to make use of their powers to support their party and the Bush administration.

The U.S. Attorneys who were appointed by George W. Bush and who were not sacked must be investigated to clear them of the presumption that they escaped sacking because they were willing to use their powers as partisan tools of the Bush administration.

Especially given the Bush administration’s willingness to use the U.S. Attorneys to electioneer by falsely incriminating Democratic candidates and shielding Republican candidates for office.

Okay, break’s over!

November 7, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 2

What’s next?

2. Electoral reform.

I said this list wasn’t in order of importance, and it’s not, really: but just as closing Guantanamo Bay and the other gulags would be a fantastic first action of the Obama administration, this is the one thing out of the whole list of 70 (even though I don’t yet know what all the list of 70 are going to be…) that is absolutely essential.

Obama won by a narrow margin because he had a huge margin of victory. That margin was whittled away by the various Republican election-rigging methods – the simplest of which come down to: don’t count the vote, and make sure the electronic voting machines leave no paper trail.

The US needs an electoral system in which:

1. Everyone eligible to vote – all citizens over the age of 17 – is registered to vote;
2. Everyone who is registered to vote, can cast a vote in any election taking place in the area in which they are registered
3. Every vote cast is counted if the intent of the voter is clear.

That’s just the basic minimum for a democracy. That none of those things on that very short list is true of the US, is disgraceful.

Barack Obama is in a uniquely beneficial position to call for electoral reform, and to benefit from it at the next election. It’s something that has to be done, that is the right thing to do, and that will ensure, if Obama is as capable as he’s proved himself to be all his life, that he should win a second term – rather than be edged out of office by another Republican candidate with the election rigged in his favour, as happened in 2000 and 2004.

Okay, break’s over!

November 5, 2008


Now, what’s next?

November 4, 2008

Tuesday Recipe Blogging: Shine on, stone soup, shine on

I’ll go back to regular recipes next time. In fact, I have a plan to see if I can make vegan gluten-free cupcakes, with rosewater icing, so if it works, I’ll share. Also there’s my recipe for my special mashed potatoes which involves (besides potatoes and cheese) beets, carrots, onions, and beer. But I really need to get a new slow cooker (my old one died the death last week) or else dig out my multi-layer steamer, which requires much more mechanical coordination.

I’ve had a bunch of people telling me recently, with regard to same-sex marriage, that they don’t like families that don’t fit their ideas; they think the government and public schools ought to make clear to everyone that those families – parents and children – are inferior, not really families at all. And they think the parents and children in those families ought to suffer legal discrimination. Most of them point to their religion as the reason why they think these families ought to be mistreated and abused: they think that the government ought to enforce their religion on others, by law. Some of those people seem very nice: two of them even invited me to lunch, should I ever stray as far as Salt Lake City. Nevertheless, they are arguing that these families – these real parents, these all-too-real children – ought to suffer for their beliefs, and worse than that: in the unreal world these people live in, I am not at all sure that they have realised that the shadow stock images of parents and children they casually denigrate and dismiss are real people.

Arguing about whether nontraditional families deserve pity or tolerance is a little like the medieval debate about left-handedness as a mark of the devil. Divorce, remarriage, single parenthood, gay parents, and blended families simply are. They’re facts of our time. Some of the reasons listed by sociologists for these family reconstructions are: the idea of marriage as a romantic partnership rather than a pragmatic one; a shift in women’s expectations, from servility to self-respect and independence; and longevity (prior to antibiotics no marriage was expected to last many decades–in Colonial days the average couple lived to be married less than twelve years). Add to all this our growing sense of entitlement to happiness and safety from abuse. Most would agree these are all good things. Yet their result–a culture in which serial monogamy and the consequent reshaping of families are the norm–gets diagnosed as “failing.”
Once upon a time, a pair of beleaguered soldiers straggled home to a village empty-handed, in a land ruined by war. They were famished, but the villagers had so little they shouted evil words and slammed their doors. So the soldiers dragged out a big kettle, filled it with water, and put it on a fire to boil. They rolled a clean round stone into the pot, while the villagers peered through their curtains in amazement.

“What kind of soup is that?” they hooted.

“Stone soup,” the soldiers replied. “Everybody can have some when it’s done.”

“Well, thanks,” one matron grumbled, coming out with a shriveled carrot. “But it’d be better if you threw this in.”

And so on, of course, a vegetable at a time, until the whole suspicious village managed to feed itself grandly.

Any family is a big empty pot, save for what gets thrown in. Each stew turns out different. Generosity, a resolve to turn bad luck into good, and respect for variety–these things will nourish a nation of children. Name-calling and suspicion will not. My soup contains a rock or two of hard times, and maybe yours does too. I expect it’s a heck of a bouillabaise. -Barbara Kingsolver, Stone Soup

There’s a very remarkable post by a very remarkable evangelical Christian, Fred Clark, whom I have recently quoted to two or three of those nice people living in that unreal world:

The truth is that unreality is simply unsustainable. Maintaining one’s belief in an unreal and untrue theory takes too much work. The vigilant rejection of reality has to be, on some level, exhausting. Even the elaborate support structures provided by Fox News and AM radio cannot wholly shield one from the constant intrusions of the world that is. Denying the existence of that world requires more help than even the voluminous right-wing echo chamber can provide.

This, I think, is part of why we’re seeing such desperate vehemence at the Palin rallies. The crowd realizes that the unreality it has chosen cannot long survive if the majority of their fellow citizens and neighbors refuse to play along. As long as the entire crowd is choosing to “see” the emperor’s splendid new clothes, then it’s relatively easy to go along with that choice. But once the crowd reaches a tipping point, once the majority are choosing reality and the truth, then the emperor’s nakedness become impossible to deny. For those who have chosen bigotry, racism and xenophobia, this election represents just such a tipping point. They’re watching unreality slip through their fingers and they’re trying, desperately, to grasp it even tighter.

After this election, part of our task — yours, mine and our new president’s — will be to find a way to gently invite and welcome these folks back into the real world. My suspicion, or at least my hope, is that eventually, once they are unburdened by the need to constantly choose unreality and therefore stupidity, they will find this a great relief.

Well, I hope so. As I hope to wake tomorrow morning to find Barack Obama’s electoral victory is confirmed.

I hope.

Madelyn Dunham dies…

Filed under: Bad Stuff Happens,Elections — jesurgislac @ 2:06 am
Tags: ,
Barack Obama stands with his grandparents Madelyn Dunham and Stanley Dunham after Obamas high school graduation in 1979. (Photo by Obama For America via Getty Images)

Barack Obama stands with his grandparents and Madelyn Dunham and Stanley Dunham after Obama's high school graduation in 1979. (Photo by Obama For America via Getty Images)

The same day, Republicans in California decide they’ll attack Obama for visiting his dying grandmother.

From the press release:

“It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer. She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances. She was proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and left this world with the knowledge that her impact on all of us was meaningful and enduring. Our debt to her is beyond measure.

“Our family wants to thank all of those who sent flowers, cards, well-wishes, and prayers during this difficult time. It brought our grandmother and us great comfort. Our grandmother was a private woman, and we will respect her wish for a small private ceremony to be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to any worthy organization in search of a cure for cancer.”

I’m sorry she didn’t live to see her grandson win the election. But she lived to see her grandson win. (It’s times like these when I really do wish there was an afterlife.)

Barack Obama may not be the perfect candidate for President. And given what McCain and Palin are, it’s damning with faint praise to say Obama’s the best possible choice for the job. Obama is, though: not a perfect candidate, but a decent one, an effective politician, a hard worker, an intelligent and self-controlled persn who knows how to run a nation-wide campaign and pick good people to do good work. None of which is true of either McCain or Palin: and while bigots and other unhappy people will be miserable and enraged when McCain loses, the rest of us can hope that Obama wins with enough of a margin to overcome an election rigged against him.

Rest in peace, Madelyn Dunham. You did good work.

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