Saturday, 6 June 2009
Memories of Dr. Tiller
of women and couples who went to Dr. Tiller
's clinic put a painfully human face on late-term abortions and make it crystal clear exactly who and what was taken away from us when a "pro-life" zealot went right round the bend and decided he knew who deserves to live and die.
Sunday, 18 January 2009
Let the fun begin
If by "fun" one means "hours of standing in massive crowds in the bitter cold." Fun!
Official inauguration celebrations start today - at least for me. There's a concert on the Mall, there are massive Sunday night parties because most folks are off tomorrow - there are an unusual number of options to pick from for a Sunday. I assume last night was probably similar, but I elected to stay in and chill with a friend after having had a fairly intense Friday night packed in a club that was too small for the crowd - the kind of party where you're on the dance floor feeling it give beneath your feet and contemplating between the beats the likelihood that tonight is the night the building just gives way. So low-key was very much the order of the day yesterday.
I'm laying out my layers and trying to plan what I'm going to bring, and hoping that I'm not going to freeze. There are some things that I handle with grace, but cold is not one of them.
Thursday, 4 September 2008
Wednesday, 13 February 2008
Australia is sorry
Today, Kevin Rudd, Australia's prime minister, apologized to Aboriginal Australians for government policies which, from 1869 to 1969, separated Aboriginal children from their families in an attempt to wipe out Aboriginal cultures through assimilation into colonial Australian society:
We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.
We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.
For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.
To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.
I would love to say more - the desire for this apology was a subject that many of my friends and classmates talked about with passion in Melbourne - but I have an interview to prepare for, so I will leave you instead with links to the reactions on some of my favorite Australian blogs:
Hoydens About Town
Sorrow at Sills Bend
View from Elsewhere
Thursday, 12 April 2007
"Kurt was never dull"
I would have to agree with Gore Vidal on that point. The last time I saw Vonnegut was on a Daily Show appearance, and as with his writing, while I could find grounds to disagree as often as agree with him, I was never bored.
What I loved about Vonnegut's work was the clarity of his opinions, the sharpness of his wit, the incisiveness of his thought, and the fact that he never shrank from being a gadfly to American culture. His appearance on the Daily Show closed with mention of his list of "liberal crap I never want to hear again." And his story, "Harrison Bergeron" illustrates the poverty of an equality that denies the value of human difference. His work was aimed at getting people to think about the consequences of their actions - on themselves, on the world, on each other.
All of Vonnegut's wit would have been hollow without his humanism. That, I think, is what most profoundly affected me. Or, perhaps infected me: I went on a serious binge of his work when I was about 14, a highly suggestible age. Thoughts like: "A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved" and "We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane" and "If you can do no good, at least do no harm." Simple phrases, but deeply challenging once you start thinking about how to consistently apply them.
I liked that Vonnegut wasn't afraid of contradicting himself, either. For all his dedication to humanism, he didn't shy away from talking about God (although he was highly skeptical of this possible God's motivations), as even a quick skim of quotes from his work shows. But he also said:
If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:
THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
Mr. Vonnegut, if you have discovered today that there is a God, I hope you're dancing to truly amazing music right now.
This just in: There's a great tribute post about Vonnegut on 50 Books. Go read it.
Wednesday, 14 February 2007
Less than a week
My mother is thrilled. I am more ambivalent. Happy that I'll be seeing my family and friends in the States, naturally, but not wanting to say my goodbyes in Melbourne. And definitely not looking forward to repacking my bags - I just threw things in as I was clearing out my apartment, and as a result, I can barely lift one of my bags, and all my cold-weather clothes are at the bottom of the other. As I don't want to throw my back out getting to the airport or freeze while unpacking once I get to the States, that situation will have to be remedied. It's irritating to have to do it all over again, though.
There's so little time left. I had been able to be in denial about leaving, but my going-away party was last weekend, and I now have six days to go. I don't quite know what to do with myself - rush around, jamming my days full of activities, or slow down, giving myself time to do nothing much if I'm not feeling up to much. I'm torn - I don't want to have too much time on my hands, but I don't want to not be able to savour the time I do have.
Sunday, 24 September 2006
Tomorrow would have been his 29th birthday. When we were together, every February as my birthday approached I could look forward to him teasing me about being an 'older woman' and a cradle robber. I had a particularly expressive eye roll that I saved for such occasions.
I'm not looking forward to tomorrow.
I wrote to his parents, because I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it will be for them. I always worry about what to say - can I say anything to them about him that won't hurt? So many times I've started to write and just found myself unable to say anything. But I couldn't not write this time, whether it hurts or not. So I wrote about the gifts he gave me.
I learned new ways to appreciate music and film from him. He was interested in the technical side of media, and he taught me to listen to how a song is mixed and the way a film is put together. Sometimes, listening to us talk over coffee after one of our regular trips to The Charles or The Senator, you might think we'd just seen entirely different movies: I'd be exclaiming over the script and the acting, he'd be critiquing the cinematography and sound design, and we sometimes had wildly divergent opinions of the movie as a result. Despite my natural preference for the verbal over the visual, something was bound to sink in over the years, and now I have a much richer appreciation of film in particular, although his way of viewing media affected how I watch TV and look at more traditional art forms, as well.
He had a way of being in the moment that I learned to appreciate deeply. I don't know that I learned it myself, but it was a pleasure to watch him immerse himself in whatever he was doing at the moment, and let other concerns go. It happened most often when he was painting, but he had a capacity for just enjoying things - a good meal, a cigar, a song - that I didn't entirely understand, but at least grasped that it was possible. He helped me learn not to live in my head so much.
Most of all, he gave me his support. He said 'Don't worry about me', never 'don't go'. And while I'm still not over the loss of that support, the loss of him, I also now know that I have lots of other people offering me their own gifts: their love, their concern, their time, their attention, their own ways of being in the world. I wish there was a less final, and a less painful, way to have learned the value of that, but I have chosen to think of it as his last gift to me.
The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation
of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn't a place
in this world that doesn't
sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.
Of course nothing stops the cold,
black, curved blade
from hooking forward—
loss is the great lesson.
But I also say this: that light
is an invitation
and that happiness,
when it's done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields,
touched by their rough and spongy gold,
I am washed and washed
in the river
of earthly delight—
and what are you going to do—
what can you do
deep, blue night?
Tuesday, 12 September 2006
All I'm going to say
about the anniversary of Sept. 11 is that Sars has written a beautiful reflection on the days after, and the song that helped get her through:
I had that album on for whatever reason, needing something familiar, and of course I had to listen to "America" a few dozen times -- even though the cheesy keyboard on the live version always drives me nuts -- because the crowd greets the "counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike" line with a happy roar. Every time I hear that line, wherever I am, I smile, because the Turnpike is a thing that belongs to me, the banks of reeds, the big blue steel dinosaurs in Kearny, the rest stops named for poets. It's mine because it's home and it's home because it's mine.
Then I guess I stopped thinking about New Jersey and went back to sweeping up, and after a while, the album came to "American Tune."
Read the rest of 'An American Tune' here.
Thursday, 3 August 2006
Bitch|Lab commemorates the life of Iris Marion Young in a most fitting fashion, with a series of posts situating her within the discipline of philosophy, and by highlighting the aspects of Young's philosophy that B|L has found interesting and helpful in her own work and life.
I first encountered Young's work last year, in a political science class on conceptions of justice and the challenge of 'difference'. Young was one of the first critics of dominant conceptions of justice that we read.
In 'Displacing the Distributive Paradigm', the first chapter of her book, Justice and the Politics of Difference, Young critiques the distributive paradigm of justice, the idea that justice in a society can and should be assessed by looking at how 'social goods' ('good' being used here less in the sense of 'a product' than attribute of 'a good life') are distributed among members of that society. She argues that this understanding of justice 'tends to ignore the social structure and institutional context that often help determine distributive patterns'. The goal of Young's critique, in her own words, was:
to displace talk of justice that regards persons as primarily possessors and consumers of goods to a wider context that also includes action, decisions about action, and provision of the means to exercise capacities. The concept of social justice includes all aspects of institutional rules and relations insofar as they are subject to potential collective decision. The concepts of domination and oppression, rather than the concept of distribution, should be the starting point for a conception of social justice. (p. 16)
In my words, while Young recognizes that questions of how 'social goods' are distributed is important to a conception of justice, she thinks it is inadequate without considering the operations of power, and considering power as a relationship, not as something that is possessed by a person or institution independent of interactions with others. Her focus on relationships and their complexities was, to me, a far more realistic depiction of the state of society than idealized theories that attempted to deal with members of society as individuals only, devoid of any context (and complicating factors) such as culture, race, class, sexuality - she paid attention to the relationships that instrumental in creating group and individual identities.
Young's conception of social justice is deeply appealing to me, and worth quoting at length:
This, then, is how I understand the connection between justice and the values that constitute the good life. Justice is not identical with the concrete realization of these values in individual lives; justice, that is, is not identical with the good life as such. Rather, social justice concerns the degree to which a society contains and supports the institutional conditions necessary for the realization of these values. The values compreise in the good life can be reduced to two very general ones: (1) developing and exercising one's capacities and expressing one's experience, and (2) participating in determining one's action and the conditions of one's action. These are universalist values, in the sense that they assume the equal moral worth of all persons, and thus justice requires their promotion for everyone. To these general values correspond two social conditions that define injustice: oppression, the institutional constraint on self-development, and domination, the institutional constraint on self-determination. (p. 37)
When I read this chapter, I was feeling utterly overwhelmed by the intellectual demands of uni. It probably took me at least half of the first semester to feel like my brain was accustomed to not only the amount of reading I had to do, but the nature of it, and way in which I was meant to read - with an eye toward critiques and intellectual connections. Individual articles or chapters from that period had to be outstanding to have stuck in my head after the semester was over. Young's work stood out for her clarity of thought and for her concern with its practical applications. So I noticed when it was announced that she was coming to uni to give a lecture.
I cut half of a class I quite liked to go to the lecture, and it was worth it. I couldn't find my notes so my memory is a bit fuzzy, but what sticks in my mind is her discussion of institutional oppression and how every member of society is implicated in the injustices that result from the way that society is structured, and that, therefore, as members of society we have a responsibility to figure out what we can and should do to address social injustice. (I wish I could find my notes. I wouldn't have thrown them out. It was such a good lecture.) I doubt that many people in the audience, if any at all, would have been aware that at the time she was undergoing treatment for the cancer that caused her death. She was a compelling, but not showy, speaker - in command of her material and at ease in front of the audience. She was already on my list of 'scholars to read extensively when I have a bit more time', but that lecture kicked her up to a spot at the top.
I was saddened to read of Young's death, because her lecture indicated that her moral philosophy was headed in a very interesting direction, and I was looking forward to reading her work as that philosophy continued to develop. I'm very sorry that that opportunity is no longer available, and I'm sorry that our society has lost a critic with a compelling moral vision who was committed to taking, and inspiring, action for social change.
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Monday, 10 April 2006
Rosemary for remembrance
Mrs Dr said, 'You know what this is for, don't you?' as she scattered fresh rosemary from her garden across the coffee table. I do. Rosemary is for remembrance. A delicate haze of rosemary, roses, gardenias, and candlesmoke hung in the air, and Kind of Blue
was playing as my friends entered the Good Doctors' flat for his memorial.
Blue is the color I think of when I think of him, so the coffee table was draped in blue fabric. Twenty-eight candles, one for each year of his life, were arranged on the table, interspersed with little things that evoked some aspect of him: dragons, cats and dogs, a charcoal pencil, a teddy bear, a bottle of Jack Daniels. Each of my friends lit a candle to start the memorial.
I had a hard time getting a copy of his favorite songs to go with the slideshow I made of pictures and things that my friends and family told me they remembered and valued about him. Our tastes in music overlapped enough to get us through a day trip, but our favorite artists were very different. So I used the Flaming Lips: 'All We Have Is Now
' and 'Do You Realize??
' which, as I thought about it, were very fitting. One of the most important things I learned from our relationship is to take happiness when and where it is offered, and to enjoy it for as long as it lasts.
The eulogy was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I spent weeks fretting about it, and all day Saturday writing it, and ended up just talking off the top of my head because what I had written just didn't seem right. It was difficult to balance introducing him to my friends, who didn't know him, with saying goodbye to him myself. It was difficult to talk through my tears. But, thanks in no small part to Mrs Dr helping me think through what I wanted to share throughout the course of the ceremony, I got through it.
I was very glad that Little Bear, Chuckles, and Miss C were there with their parents. They were so good, yet as kids will, they provided several moments of unintended comedy before, during and after the ceremony. I can't remember exactly what they said or did, but it was good that there was laughter.
I don't know whether I can say that I feel better after the memorial, but it feels right to have done it. It was important, more important than I realized, to have my friends here together as a community. I found myself singing 'Your Misfortune
' as I was getting ready for the memorial, and finally began to understand a little bit just why that was so important. At times like this, the people who love you are a sanctuary.
I am so deeply grateful that I am loved and cared for by so many wonderful people. If there's something inside that you wanna say
Say it out loud it'll be okay
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light
~'Dry the Rain
', The Beta Band
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