Thursday, February 24, 2011

goin' to hell in a handbasket, that's what we're doing.

This makes me boiling mad. If you don't want to click on the link, here's a sample:

The top choices [in the federal budget] among evangelicals for the chopping block are economic assistance to needy people around the world (56 percent), government assistance for the unemployed (40 percent), and environmental protection (38 percent). In each of these categories, evangelicals were more supportive of decreasing spending than are other Americans. In fact, evangelicals were more supportive of funding cuts in every area except military defense, terrorism defense, aid to veterans, and energy.

I have a rant somewhere in me, but at this point, all I can say is "What part of 'for the least of these' don't you understand?"

Also, this is a sorta WTF on an otherwise okay morning: Georgia could potentially criminalize women who've had miscarriages.  Here's a snippet of this article from Mother Jones:

Under Rep. Franklin's bill, HB 1, women who miscarry could become felons if they cannot prove that there was "no human involvement whatsoever in the causation" of their miscarriage. There is no clarification of what "human involvement" means, and this is hugely problematic as medical doctors do not know exactly what causes miscarriages. Miscarriages are estimated to terminate up to a quarter of all pregnancies and the Mayo Clinic says that "the actual number is probably much higher because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn't even know she's pregnant. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn't developing normally."

If that's an accurate picture of the bill...I just kinda want to splutter.

AND, also, Americorps and other programs could potentially be cut. I've participated in Americorps, and so have many people I know, so here you go: Save Service.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tell St. Valentine, hey gimme five

Okay, so I don't really have a reason to celebrate Valentine's Day (no significant other), but for those who do, have some poetry and music.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

We cannot live, except thus mutually
We alternate, aware or unaware,
The reflex act of life: and when we bear
Our virtue onward most impulsively,
Most full of invocation, and to be
Most instantly compellant, certes, there
We live most life, whoever breathes most air
And counts his dying years by sun and sea.
But when a soul, by choice and conscience, doth
Throw out her full force on another soul,
The conscience and the concentration both make
mere life, Love. For Life in perfect whole
And aim consummated, is Love in sooth,
As nature's magnet-heat rounds pole with pole.

Time and Again
Rainer Marie Rilke

Time and again, however
well we know the landscape of love,
and the little church-yard with lamenting names,
and the frightfully silent ravine wherein all the others
end: time and again we go out two together,
under the old trees, lie down again and again
between the flowers, face to face with the sky.

The title of this post is from this song, from Over the Rhine's new album:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"in this house of memory"

I'm in the middle of re-reading Leila Ahmed's memoir A Border Passage. Ahmed is a professor of women's studies in religion at Harvard Divinity School. She's Egyptian, Muslim, and kinda awesome. Or hella awesome. Or something.

Though it's a memoir, A Border Passage actually starts with a brief history of modern (post-WWII, in this case) Egypt. Ahmed was born in 1940, so she experienced a lot of this firsthand: the end of the British Empire, the Egyptian revolution of 1952, the transition to Egyptians thinking of themselves as "Arab." This last part is particularly interesting:

Today we are so used to the idea of Egypt as "Arab" that it seems unimaginable that Egyptians ever thought of themselves as anything else. In fact, I made this assumption myself when I first began writing this memoir. It was only when my own discordant memories failed to make sense that I was compelled to look more closely into the history of our Arab identity. Eventually I began to see the constructed nature of our Arab identity as it was formed and re-formed to serve the political interests of the day (10).

The "political interests of the day," at that time, mainly meant Nasser and then Sadat. But, as Ahmed puts it:

But how else might Egyptians define themselves, if not as Arab?...Egyptians, for instance, might, with equal accuracy, define themselves as African, Nilotic, Mediterranean, Islamic, or Coptic. Or as all, or any combination of, the above. Or, of course, as Egyptian: pertaining to the land of Egypt (11).

It seems to me, as I re-read this memoir, that this search for an understanding of identity, particularly Egyptian identity, is what Ahmed's project here is all about. She traces her own history, as an upper-class child living in a very cosmopolitan, wealthy world: she speaks English, French, and Arabic; she has friends who are Christian, Jewish, and Muslim; she's raised primarily by a nanny; her father is an engineer for the government. When her father clashes with Nasser over the construction of the Aswan High Dam, Nasser essentially ruins her family.

One of the other fascinating things to me was the description of the all-women's space: the way that the women in her family would gather and talk, the way that the men would not dare invade this space. And in counterpart is Ahmed's understanding of Islam:

Islam, as I got it from [the other women in her family], was gentle, generous, pacifist, inclusive, somewhat mystical--just as they themselves were. Mother's pacifism was entirely of a piece with their sense of the religion. Being Muslim was about believing in a world in which life was meaningful and in which all events and happenings were permeated (although not always transparently to us) with meaning (121).

Ahmed's memoir is complex. She weaves her own history into the history of Egypt and its relationship with England. Ahmed herself is a product of colonialism, and she admits that she often looked down on her mother because her mother liked Egyptian and Arabic music (her mother was Turkish, her father Egyptian). When she talks about her family, she sees the history of colonialism written onto it:

When I began to look in my academic work at issues of colonialism and began to unmask the colonialist perspectives and racism embedded in texts on Arabs and the colonized, steeping myself in writings on internalized colonialism, I began to realize that it was not only in texts that these hidden messages were inscribed but that they were there, too, in my own childhood and in the very roots of my consciousness (25).

As I watch and read about Egypt now, it is with Ahmed in mind: the way she talks about her religion, her country, and her search for her own identity through the lens of Egypt's identity. I'd be curious to know what she thinks about what's going on now.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Whoa, dude; or, viva la revolucion.

"Is it a rebellion?"
"No, sire. It is a revolution."

And, in my friend Rebecca's words, now the hard work begins.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

there is a me you would not recognize, dear.

Over The Rhine has a new CD coming out today. This is enough to make me dance a little in my chair as I sit here at work.

If you haven't heard of OtR, it's okay. They're kind of a little-known band from Cincinnati, and they've been playing music for the past 20 years--or rather, the husband-wife duo, Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, have been making music for 20 years, and they've been joined by various musicians at different times during those years.

Their new album, The Long Surrender, is pretty great. I've been listening to it because it's streaming on their website. But a little background...

I was introduced to Over the Rhine during my senior year of college by Josh Anderson, who was the Opinions editor for our school paper (I was the news editor). He was writing a review of their newest album at the time, Drunkard's Prayer, which was Linford and Karin's, well, love song to each other after almost breaking up. After realizing they were falling apart, they canceled their tour, went home, and figured out how to save their marriage. Drunkard's Prayer was the result.

Friday, February 4, 2011

we who believe in freedom

This video seems appropriate--because of Egypt, but also because February's Black History Month. And because Sweet Honey in the Rock is awesome at any time of the year.

This is "Ella's Song," dedicated to Ella Baker, a leader in the Civil Rights movement. Baker's achievements are vast, so go check out this and this.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A post not about Egypt, not yet; Or, I feel the need to comment.

Sometimes the internet is a really interesting place. Sometimes it's a place where things snowball and all you can do is stand back and watch with wide, wide eyes.

I read the blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books; it's part of my morning ritual (up there with the NY Times and Questionable Content). It's funny and smart, and it wakes up my brain. Anyway, today I read this post: Bitch, Please. No, Really. Please.

In short: the magazine Bitch recently posted their Top 100 YA Books for the Feminist Reader. Some commenters complained about their choices of a few books--namely, Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, and Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. The post authors then re-read the books and took them off the list. They explained the change with this comment:

A couple of us at the office read and re-read Sisters Red, Tender Morsels and Living Dead Girl this weekend. We’ve decided to remove these books from the list— Sisters Red because of the victim-blaming scene that was discussed earlier in this post, Tender Morsels because of the way that the book validates (by failing to critique or discuss) characters who use rape as an act of vengeance, and Living Dead Girl because of its triggering nature. We still feel that these books have merit and would not hesitate to recommend them in certain instances, but we don’t feel comfortable keeping them on this particular list.
We’ve replaced these books with Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley and Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden. Thanks to several commenters who pointed out the need to include these excellent books on our list. I’m excited to add a few more rad girls to our list and I can’t say how happy I am to know that there are WAY more than 100 young adult books out there that tackle sexism, racism, homophobia, etc… while presenting us with amazing young adult characters. Young adult lit has come a long way. We’re really excited to keep talking about feminist-friendly YA books on the blog.

The internet then exploded.