CATEGORY: American Culture

woMAN; Woe, man; Whoa! Man.

By Tamara Enz

CATEGORY: American CultureWhen I was in third grade, the elementary school principal came into our class to speak with the students. I don’t now remember what the primary reason was for his visit; what I remember is only a fragment of his lecture.

He stood at the chalkboard and wrote in large letters:

M A N

Stepping to the side so everyone in the class could see the letters, he said, “Without man,” he stepped back to the board and wrote “wo” before completing his sentence, “you cannot have woman.”

On the board was the word:

wo MAN

Almost 50 years later, I can still see this man saying these words, spewing ignorance and sexism across a new generation of children. Continue reading

WordsDay: Literature

The consolations of literature…

 

Life is a jest; and all things show it/ I though so once; but now I know it. – John Gay

It’s just words, folks, just words…. – Donald Trump

John Gay (image courtesy Wikimedia)

John Gay (image courtesy Wikimedia)

Friends ask me with some regularity why it is that I spend so much of my free time reading and contemplating and writing about literature. I forswore writing about politics several years ago. (I think it was about 2010 that I gave up trying to say anything useful on the topic. I may have let slip the odd veiled or not-so-veiled reference in the essays I write about literature, but my active days as a critic of this, that, or the other political activity or politician are over.)

Great days – or if the Chinese curse is more apt, interesting days – are upon us, however, and while I can and do find comfort at times in Lord Byron’s flippancy:

I would to heaven that I were so much clay,
As I am blood, bone, marrow, passion, feeling—
Because at least the past were passed away—
And for the future—(but I write this reeling,
Having got drunk exceedingly today,
So that I seem to stand upon the ceiling)
I say—the future is a serious matter—
And so—for God’s sake—hock and soda water!

I find that as I contemplate the changes likely to be wrought in my country with the election of the author of one of the epigraphs that begin this essay, that I must find more – and healthier – consolations than the one the 6th Baron of Newstead Abbey proposes.

And so I turn to literature.  Continue reading

Image Credit: Getty

Next time, ask the Reagan question before you vote

On January 1, 2019, as President Trump approaches his third state of the union address, people in America should pop the Reagan question: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

Those in the United States should ask, for example:

“Is my health insurance costing me more out of pocket than under Obama? Am I getting better, more affordable benefits?”

“Can I still get health insurance?”

“Have work restrictions been placed on my Medicare benefits? Has my state limited Medicare benefits?”

“Has my property tax bill gone up or down?”

“Has the rusty bridge carrying my daughter’s school bus been fixed?”

“I live in a city. Has my child developed asthma in the past year?”

“What’s the interest rate on a new car now?”

“Do I have to pay more for my prescription medications?”
Continue reading

Not merely with or beside you, but for you.

I wore a safety pin on my shirt today

Wearing a safety pin is a mark of “I will protect you with my own body if necessary.” Wearing one is a responsibility, not a symbol of solidarity.

Not merely with or beside you, but for you.

Not merely with or beside you, but for you.

I wore a safety pin on my shirt today.

I thought long and deep about whether that was a good idea or not.

Wearing a safety pin on my shirt means that I’m self-identifying as a safe person – someone whom anyone can approach, for any reason, and expect help, without question or judgement. It means that, if I see bullying or bigotry or abuse, I’m obligating myself to step in if asked, to get involved on behalf of the victim or victims.

But it also means that I have to give anyone I’m with fair notice that I might have to put our plans on hold to help a stranger. And it means that I might get threatened or even seriously injured in the process of assisting someone who needed help. Continue reading

Ben Carson

Fear and loathing in Ben Carson’s brain

I am Ben Carson’s guilty conscience.

Ben CarsonWith the way things have progressed recently, I have been feeling ever so worse than usual, and it was already pretty rough being me. People don’t know the things that eat at me. If they did, they would wonder how I could sleep at night. All they know is the image that I give them when I hold my head up high every day. All they know is what they believe of me. God bless them, so many of them seem to think the world of me. If only they knew. And then there’s the mockery. That really tears at me because it’s so much closer to who I truly am. I feel like a fraud, a fake, a phony. I feel like I have great talents, and so much to offer to the world, but then so many things I’ve done have gone wrong. I’ve had great responsibility and failed it time and again. I feel like I’ve been advanced way beyond my competence and my expertise. When that has happened before, people died. How many more must die? Continue reading

ArtSunday: LIterature

The World’s 100 Best Short Stories, Sort of…Volume 8: Men

‘Shall I betray my best friend…? He is all that I have in the world. He saved me from the bear when its claws were already at my throat. We have suffered hunger and cold together. He covered me with his own garments while I was ill. I have brought him wood and water. I have watched over his sleep and led his enemies off the trail. Why should they think of me as a man who betrays his friend?’ – Selma Lagerlof

Selma Lagerlof (image courtesy Wikimedia)

Selma Lagerlof (image courtesy Wikimedia)

In my essay on volume 7 of The World’s 100 Best Short Stories, the volume devoted to stories about women, I bemoaned the fact that eight of the ten stories in that volume were written by men. In this, volume 8, a collection devoted to stories about men, only one of the ten stories is by a woman, the Swedish author and the first woman Nobelist, Selma Lagerlof. Lagerlof’s story is the best description of what male friendship is like in this volume.

Life is full of ironies, isn’t it?

Among the stories in this volume is one by another major literary figure, Fyodor Dostoevsky. That story, “The Thief,” is also an interesting depiction of male friendship, though its real focus is, as is often the case in the great Russian’s work, identity. And, as one might expect in a collection of stories about men, there are stories about sailors and cowboys and duels and war. So, as anyone who knows a little psychology and/or sociology would expect, these male centered stories are about men doing things together. You know, like fighting and shooting at each other….

It’s great to be a guy, for sure. Continue reading

WordsDay: Literature

The World’s 100 Best Short Stories, Sort of…Volume 7: Women

“It was almost a miracle, her kind of death, because out of all that jam of tonnage, she carried only one bruise, a faint one, near the brow.” – Fannie Hurst

“I love her like a madman, and I would kill myself this instant to rejoin her, if she were not to remain unknown to me for eternity, as she was unknown to me in this world.” – Alexandre Dumas

Fannie Hurst (image courtesy Wikimedia)

Fannie Hurst (image courtesy Wikimedia)

Volume 7 of The World’s 100 Best Short Stories is devoted to women. The ten stories in this collection seem to be efforts to find a theme that explains who women are. The various tales depict women as self-destructive, as self-sacrificing, as helpless victims, as brilliant tacticians. And yes, the collection also gives women the all too familiar Madonna/whore treatment.

At least one reason for this particular set of views of women may come from the authorship of the stories. Of these ten stories about women, only two are written by women.  One is by the redoubtable Fannie Hurst, one of the great “women’s authors”of the 20th century (she is the author of great pot boiler melodramas such as Imitation of Life and Back Street, both have which have been filmed multiple times with stars ranging from Claudette Colbert and Irene Dunne to Lana Turner and Susan Hayward. The other is an author named Bernice Brown about whom there is scant information, though she seems to have written for magazines such as The Century and, if the example from this collection is an indication, is an interesting proto-feminist.

So, we have a volume of stories that mainly tell us how men saw women in the early 20th century with a couple of women authors trying to tell us how women saw themselves.  Continue reading

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The war over words

Politicians have always sought the power to control the meaning of language. But now this open warfare has raced past reprehensible to dangerous for democracy.

language-has-powerIn the vicious descent to American unexceptionalism that politicians and their rich supporters are hellbent on winning (common folk and consequences be damned), the election has become a continuing chase for the authority to control language.

That’s what modern power has become: the ability to define a word, and to prevent others from doing so. Politicians rarely make coherent arguments any more; they instead try to co-opt the meanings of words. That’s why debates have been nonsensical: Candidates may utter the same words, but the meanings they assign to those words are vastly different.

Consider just one particular word. Continue reading

Journalism

The Tiffany Martínez case and journalistic malpractice in the first degree

Journalism RIP: gone and apparently forgotten

Tiffany Martinez journalism malpracticeHere’s a sampling of the Google News headlines this morning for a search on [tiffany martinez]:

  • Professor Leaves Racist Note on Student’s Paper – Yahoo News-22 hours ago
  • The broader implications of unfairly accusing a Latina student of plagiarism – Inside Higher Ed-Nov 1, 2016
  • Professor accuses Latina student of plagiarism for using the word hence – The Grio-Oct 29, 2016
  • Latina accused of plagiarizing after using ‘hence’ in essay – New York Post-Oct 30, 2016
  • Latina college student is accused of plagiarism because she used the word ‘hence’ in an essay – Daily Mail-Oct 29, 2016
  • Latina College Student Used ‘Hence’ In Paper, Is Accused Of Plagiarism – Highly Cited-Huffington Post-Oct 28, 2016
  • A Professor Circled “Hence” On A Latina Student’s Paper And Wrote “This Is Not Your Word” – BuzzFeed News-Oct 28, 2016
  • Student accused of plagiarism by professor for using the word ‘Hence’ – Gistmaster (blog)-8 hours ago

Notice anything? Continue reading

Education2

The Tiffany Martínez case: her post is long on emotional appeal and short on details

The trending case of a Suffolk University student accused of cheating in front of her class raises more questions than her manipulative story answers…

Tiffany Martínez, Suffolk University

Tiffany Martínez, Suffolk University

On Thursday, a Suffolk University student named Tiffany Martínez posted a blog in which she described how her professor had attacked her in front of a class for using language that was “not her own.”

This morning, my professor handed me back a paper (a literature review) in front of my entire class and exclaimed “this is not your language.” On the top of the page they wrote in blue ink: “Please go back and indicate where you cut and paste.” The period was included. They assumed that the work I turned in was not my own. My professor did not ask me if it was my language, instead they immediately blamed me in front of peers. On the second page the professor circled the word “hence” and wrote in between the typed lines “This is not your word.” The word “not” was underlined. Twice. My professor assumed someone like me would never use language like that. As I stood in the front of the class while a professor challenged my intelligence I could just imagine them reading my paper in their home thinking could someone like her write something like this? 

Martínez is right to be sensitive to the issues of bias she points out.  Continue reading

Book-Review

H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines…Adventures in Boyhood Dreaming….

“Haggard’s heroes attain a legendary stature as their adventures strip away what Tarzan, Lord Greystoke, calls ‘the veneer of civilization,’ and perpetually confront them with danger and death.’ – Robert Morsberger, Afterword to King Solomon’s Mines

1965 Hammer Films poster for

1965 Hammer Films poster for “She” starring Ursula Andress (image courtesy Wikimedia)

This begins with Ursula Andress.

Back in junior high, when my buddies and I were the sort of slobbering idiots about girls and women that one our current POTUS candidates seems to be in advanced middle age, Hammer Films, the British film company that specialized in remakes of Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy announced that it was releasing a new film version of the H. Rider Haggard adventure novel, She. More important to my crowd’s budding libidos, the film would star original Bond girl (there’s a respectful term) Ursula Andress (Andress was the first Bond girl, appearing in the first James Bond film, Dr. No, as the tastefully named Honey Ryder).

We dutifully, lustfully went to see She – which was a typical Hammer film: a lot of fun once one put one’s critical thinking skills on hold. In the aftermath of that experience, and without telling my friends, who would have laughed at my bookishness, I decided to read Haggard’s novel.

It was a lot of fun, too, and a damned sight better than the movie, Ursula Andress notwithstanding. I planned to go on and read King Solomon’s Mines, too, but something distracted me (probably baseball or a guitar) and I never got back to the Haggard universe.

Until last week. Continue reading

Weak Men Fear Strong Women - Hillary Edition

The sexist dismissal of Hillary Clinton

2701a6d0-clinton-4x3By focusing on Bill Clinton’s infidelities and affairs, Donald Trump, his followers and any media who follow his lead, are participating in a classic sexist dismissal of a woman in favor of a male in her life.

About 20 years ago, I had a Harley: a 1995 black Road King. We decided to add an oil cooler to the engine and I went to pick it up. The shop we bought the bike at was all the way on the East Side of town, so I went to the closer store on the West Side of Cleveland. I knew exactly what I needed.

So I popped in and walked up to the parts counter. And proceeded to be ignored. By three parts guys. And they ignored me. And ignored me. I was finally reduced to asking for assistance. I told them what part I needed–by number. They then had the nerve to quiz me about the bike: model, year, other accessories, and a bunch of other questions. Everything but “Does your husband know you’re buying this oil cooler?” Continue reading

Donald Trump announces his candidacy for  president during a rally at his Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York, on Tuesday June 16, 2015. Mr. Trump also announced the release of a financial statement that he says denotes a personal net worth of over 8 billion dollars.

Donald Trump is a referendum on your character

I’m not asking who you’re voting for. I’m asking what kind of human being you are.

Trump Grab em by the pussyI’m sure you’ve read what Donald Trump said by now, but let’s watch the video and read the transcript just to make sure we’re all on the same page.

I was considering titling this essay “Donald Trump is a referendum on our character.” But it isn’t “our.” A significant majority of Americans hate Trump, including millions who are going to vote for him anyway.

So today I want to talk about you. You’re not at all comfortable with Donald Trump. Continue reading

brexit-premier-league

Brexit Britain Bigotry Bake-off

Turning every unemployed person into a doctor is neither possible nor desirable. But if you do the math, that seems to be where England is heading.

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We’ve been here before…

It’s a few months since I wrote about my despair following the Brexit referendum and, as I feared, the walls are coming up. It’s not like Europe has much experience with forcing foreigners and minorities to be physically labelled and publicly humiliated.

So post-Brexit Britain’s new idea of forcing companies to label their foreign employees and humiliate them for not hiring locals is a depressing return to the dark ages.

A further idea is to replace all foreign employees with locals. They’re starting with the NHS — the country’s ubiquitous universal health service — which currently employs about 1.2 million people, of whom 55,000 are EU citizens (30,000 of whom are doctors). Continue reading

Book-Review

John Ehle’s The Widow’s Trial: a pure woman…

“I was tired now, the weight of the memories was heavy as lead.” – John Ehle, The Widow’s Trial

The Widow's Trial by John Ehle (image courtesy Amazon)

The Widow’s Trial by John Ehle (image courtesy Amazon)

Reading a John Ehle novel is one of those rich experiences like eating Belgian chocolate or drinking fine cognac.  It’s an experience to be savored, enjoyed in a leisurely fashion.

That said, I raced through this Ehle novel in a couple of days.

For readers who think of Ehle in terms of the finest of his work, The Land Breakers or The Road, this novel from much later in his distinguished career may seem – slight is not exactly the word, such a word could probably never apply to Ehle’s work – but it is, one might say, a work of its time.

Its time of publication, the late 1980’s, was the height of a period known in serious literature as the era of Dirty Realism. Ehle is certainly a contemporary of (and probably knew) an originator of this style of fiction, the great Carson McCullers, so he certainly could justify a foray into this type of fiction. And because John Ehle is such a great writer, he certainly owes me, you, nor anyone else any explanation for a damned thing he does artistically. Continue reading

black_lives_matter

But WHY do black lives matter? S&R honors #BLM, part 3

Body Language

by Dasan Ahanu

black_lives_matter

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

There was a trial last night
Black angst took the stand
and pledged an oath on a bible
A symbol that truths
become more pertinent in red
Sorta like blood amidst chalk outlines
Our only forgotten sons

See angst was there to tell the whole truth
and nothing but the truth
so help a bullet riddled midnight
on it’s way to God Continue reading

Police Violence

What if cops were Skittles?

According to Vox, police have killed over 2,000 people since Ferguson. Their map of fatal encounters illustrates the point with red dots.

That made me wonder. What if cops were Skittles?
Continue reading

facebook-arrechaga-meme

Examining a cynical, fake-patriotic Facebook meme

Instead of making yourself a tool for those whose agendas run counter to the best interests of the nation that flag represents, how about stepping back and asking  who’s playing you, and why?

This meme came across my Facebook feed earlier today.

facebook-arrechaga-meme

Obviously somebody has an issue with Colin Kaepernick (and other black athletes) protesting injustice in America by refusing to stand during the national anthem. Continue reading

Never forget…what, exactly?

Yesterday, Big Think posted an interesting collection of Gallup Poll results, along with some commentary: Obama Actually Made America Great Again. Here’s the Data. To hear the rabidly irrational Obama opposition on today, of all days, I can only say that these are funny numbers to describe how Obama has ruined America in eight years.

What’s truly deplorable is that, of all the ways Bush (with a boost from Dems) ruined America Continue reading

Woman-Power

Goodbye forever, Phyllis Schlafly, 9/5/16

Schlafly’s personal formula was to marry rich, employ a housekeeper while proudly touting her housewife credentials, follow her bliss (into enterprises for which she did not require a living wage), and then work to deny equality for all women.

We knew you too well and for too long, hypocrite extraordinaire.

She was a conservative who was against the New Deal, feminism (“Men should stop treating feminists like ladies, and instead treat them like the men they say they want to be.”), an equal rights amendment to the Constitution (“I simply didn’t believe we needed a constitutional amendment to protect women’s rights.”), legalized abortion, laws against the harassment of women in the workplace (“Sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous women.”), sex education for children in public schools (“Sex-education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions.”), and the Supreme Court’s ban on teacher-led prayer in public schools (mind you, she only wanted Christian prayer in all children’s schools, of course). Continue reading