Friday, August 18, 2017

Free Speech Indeed?

Greetings again, dear readers.  What a horrible heartbreak the situation in Charlottesville was - the bigotry of white supremacy so in-your-face and the loss of the life of Heather Heyer, who stood against hate. Surely we must all condemn the hatred and violence; then we must, as a society, come together to transform it into the America we know it can be.  And our leaders should do better. No, 45, we know on which side the hatred and violence were on; and ah, the news cycle these days: first your "too little too, late statement", then a racist tweet, followed by a defense of neo-nazis.

But there are other issues I wish to write about here, thinking aloud digitally, in a sense. This post was prompted by an article from Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept: "The Misguided Attacks on ACLU for Defending Neo-Nazis' Free Speech Rights in Charlottesville."

Greenwald's main thesis is that the ACLU (and full disclosure, I did renew my membership, finally, after the election) must defend all free speech rights, especially unpopular speech, where he says "free speech battles are always and by definition fought." I thought the best section of the article was his discussion of the ACLU actually defending the idea of legal precedent.  He notes that if you genuinely care about the speech of those often marginalized, should be "genuinely afraid of allowing anti-free speech precedents to become entrenched that will then be used against you when it’s time to defend free speech rights." Greenwald also uses a similar arguments concerning why the ACLU should defend these awful folks - basically, allow censorship or state control of speech in cases you don't like might erode the defense of cases you like.  Very reasonable, I think, but still I feel the discussion is just a bit incomplete.

What Gets Defended

Now let's make no mistake, I am a very strong supporter of Freedom of Speech, but I am very troubled by the type of hate speech now and the groups which are doing it. The vile rhetoric of these white supremacists is bad enough and  is no doubt hate speech. but as can be noted from the commondreams.org link above, these haters are often armed, which causes many of us much concern.  They have been know to go to great lengths to troll critics online, even finding out where they live and harassing them there. Their rhetoric sometimes also blatantly espouses or hints at violence.

Now there have long been debates about hate speech vs. protected speech. Ostensibly, even hate speech is protected (see Street vs. New York, 1969 - the flag burning case, and Matal vs. Tam, 2017) A key source of legal guidance is also the decision Brandenburg vs. Ohio.  The finding by our SCOTUS in was: "it was held that the constitutional guaranties of free speech and free press did not permit a state to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation, except where such advocacy was directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and was likely to incite or produce such action" Again, the possible harm related to such speech must be imminent.

What I find slightly problematic with that precept is we are now in the age of instant digital communications and social media.  "Speech" in one place or time is so quickly spread across hours and miles.  And as we saw in the Portland attack, which saw two rescuers killed, harm may not come during or near a rally.  Cornell William Brooks, former NAACP President, when discussing the aftermath of the Charlottesville tragedy observed that our notorious 45 should stop "signaling and engaging in messaging, racial dog whistles with the Alt-right. The fact of the matter is the whistles he blew during the campaign were answered in Charlottesville, and someone lost her life."  (see this article

I'm not sure I have a ready answer, but I do feel we need to consider the ramifications of this new age in the way we answer the question of what speech is protected, and how we handle the issues associated with Free Speech.  Maybe we should require venues to post warning signs or make announcements such as: "Speakers at this event may hint at or advocate acts that are illegal.  Do not engage in them later." I'm not sure whether such warnings would have any effect (do graphic cigarette warning labels have an effect? - some research says 'maybe'), but you can't say I'm not doing some "out-of-the-box thinking" here!  There was also a report that Facebook will begin deleting 'threats of physical harm."  Such initiatives might actually help the cause. (BONUS if you've made it this far: here's an op-ed about the aftermath of Charlottesville and why Brandenburg vs. Ohio may be of quite some import!)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Education Is...

Greetings out there!  Again, I do hope that there are actual readers lurking, so don't be shy.  I would love to hear from you!

So you'll notice the topic of this post is "Education."  That is something I'm passionate about as a retired educator and daughter of an educator and a strong educational supporter.  So of course I was stunned when someone tweeted an article on how many GOP'ers now consider colleges "bad for America."  Although the author engages in some speculation about the reasoning behind this trend, I just shake my head.  How could ANYONE not support education? I know how much I value my education, how much my Mom valued hers, and how my Dad valued the education he did have and sometimes wished he'd had more.  He certainly always valued learning. He often told me: ' Once you get it in your head, they can't take it out!" We should all realize what a real treasure education is.

So time to blog about education.  But surprisingly, the bulk of this post is not taking the form I'd expected.  It turns out I will be presenting a new poem.  So I hope you enjoy and maybe even find it enlightening or stimulating.

Education Is...

Education is priceless
But yours has been paid for by early advocates of free public schools
By those who resisted norms and regulations
Restricting or outlawing the education of enslaved Americans
By those who sought to open educational pathways
Where women and girls had been excluded

Education is a gift
But yours must be unwrapped
By your study and synthesis
By your questions and analysis
By your search for contexts and meanings

Education is more than simple recall of facts
For yours should include
Learning and study skills
Inquiry and research skills
Development of the habit of thinking critically
Learning when and how your knowledge can be applied

Education is transfomative
Yours should prepare you
But also challenge and inspire you
Open worlds before you
Lift you and equip you to lift others

Education should be a right
But yours should also be a privilege
Connecting you with what has gone before
Encouraging you to explore new trends
Fostering your developing mind and self

Education should be lifelong
Yours should not stop when formal school days end
Seek to grow and refuse to stagnate
Continue reading, questioning, researching
And engaging with the world around you


And now some references you might find of interest

Public Schools Rising

American Ed. History Timeline 

Education Under Slavery

Read of Mathematician Sophie Germain's dedication to learning despite early discouragement from parents! 

Note AAUW's first study: Higher Ed. did NOT damage women's health

Remember: Comments are GOLD and sharing is caring.  Do share any thoughts in comments! 




Sunday, July 9, 2017

Never Forget!

Greetings, readers - at least I hope there are some out there! This post is a bit different, but these thoughts came to mind, so here we are.

Well, just what should we "never forget'?  Certainly, some things should be burned in our memories:  beloved family members and pets, important mentors and teachers, moments which had an oversized impact on our futures. It's even been said you never forget how to ride a bike (assuming you learned to ride in the first place!).  It's also been said, "use it or lose it" and I do believe there's lots of truth in that.  I have found however, that some remnants of things I've learned are still in my brain somewhere.  I haven't done Calculus in quite some time.  But I did have an opportunity to observe the one Calculus teacher while I was still working and although I certainly would need a refresher even then, I did find that what she was going over in class did at least sound some familiar chords.  And even though I haven't used or studied French in even longer, sometimes I can still come up with some words or even a basic sentence in French, which I find pretty cool. Now let me begin some further thoughts.

Never Forget Where You Came From

This really can't be said enough. Everyone needs to remember where he or she started and what had to be gone through to "make it" (assuming the person has indeed done just that).  Hard work at one's craft, studying, working through grunge jobs, whatever it took, NEVER FORGET.  Allow me to share this from my experience.  When I was first hired at the college I am now retired from, I wasn't hired on faculty.  I was  "tech assistant" and of course grateful for that position.  Wonderfully, a faculty job in my area opened up the next year and I was fortunate to secure that position.  Now when I was still a tech, there was some discussion of the tech and faculty joining together in one bargaining unit to have a bigger voice.  That issue came up and was voted on again when I and several other former techs were on faculty.  I voted to join together, but believe it or not, that was not unanimous among the former techs.  Go figure!

Those who come from privilege should remember that, too.  It's ok to be grateful (I'm only a 99%'er, but I'm grateful for many things, notably my late parents and my education).  But always also remember that many folks don't come with ready-made advantages.

I feel it is important to always keep in mind where you've been, and at the very least not advocate for dismantling programs that would help others rise or for policies which would place more roadblocks in their way.  We all also need to be aware of some subtle biases which lead to blaming the poor for being poor.  Maia Szalavitz discusses them in a very good op-ed for The Guardian.  She writes about "...the psychology concept known as the “fundamental attribution error”. This is a natural tendency to see the behavior of others as being determined by their character – while excusing our own behavior based on circumstances." She also mentions “...'actor-observer bias'. When we watch others, we tend to see them as being driven by intrinsic personality traits, while in our own case we know that, for example, we acted angrily because we’d just been fired, not because we’re naturally angry people."

 Never Forget Who You Are

You should never forget who you are, the unique person you have become over the years. Never forget that, in my college colleague, Dr. Fred's fine talk, that he told us that we are in some ways similar to all other humans, in some ways similar to some other humans, and in some ways we are unique persons.  Our challenge is to keep our individuality yet always honor our common humanity, respecting those we feel similar to and also those who might just be different!  Here's a nice piece by Arthur Dobrin that is worth digesting!

 
Never Forget What You Are About

You should never forget your calling, your dreams, your passions.  There is much work to do and I believe each of us has an individual calling with work meant just for him or her.  So you are needed as we face the challenges which are daily around us.  I remember what singer-songwriter Howard Jones told the audience at the excellent concert of his I was fortunate to attend.  He told us that if one has a dream - "never, ever give up!"  Those of us especially who fervently believe in social justice need to keep up the fight. To quote Bob Marley; "Get up, stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, Don't give up the fight."

So never forget where you came from, who you are, or what you're about. Take your history as a starting point and use your individual gifts to progress - as an individual and just maybe to also aid in societal progress as well.


Please - comments are gold (could use some encouragement) and sharing is caring!


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Woman Still Emerging

Greetings, Readers  - Some recent reports have made it clear: women STILL have a ways to go for real equality. 

Some Reports

Let's start by noting that reproductive health care for women is under attack.  Rabbi Leah Rachel Berkowitz argues that we must trust women with their own reproductive choices.   Melinda Gates is advocating for reproductive and family planning services worldwide.  And as it turns out, access to reproductive health care is also good for the economy!  So it should be a win-win, right?  Why then, is there so much resistance to something that should be a total positive?  We all need to be advocates for this.

But sadly, there's even more.  Missouri is seriously on verge of passing legislation which would allow employer to fire women who are using birth control or who have had abortions and also allow landlords to discriminate against such women.  I'm tired of some holier-than-thou excuse for allowing discrimination.

Whew! And we haven't even gotten to the two reports which  prompted this post - yet.  One that floored me was a report from North Carolina.  There is a loophole in law that says a person cannot withdraw consent for sex once given.  Not if she (or he) changes mind or things get out of hand.  There is a call for change, but apparently the proposal is stuck in a legislative committee.  All should hope and pray that this law does get change rather soon.

But I came across an even more stunning case.  The story of Megan Rondini, who accused a powerful member of her community of rape.  Under Alabama law, victims (yes, victims!) must prove the seriously fought back. The investigator in Rondini's case concluded she did not, that no rape occurred, and further, started building a case against her for various crimes!  What is going on in that state???  I can say no more except that when I reached the end of the piece, my heart just broke.

Patriarchy and Control

Such reports, and other recent news, such as the incident where the Senate moved to stop Sen. Warren from reading Coretta Scott King's letter and the reluctance of folks to pay attention to Cosby accusers early on show that the U. S. really is still a patriarchy.  In fact, most cultures, historically and even still today, are patriarchal. So to make sure we're all on the same page on exactly what that is here's a definition from Gerda Lerner: "the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children in the family and the extension of male dominance over women in the society in general." which implies "that men hold power in all the important institutions of society and that women are deprived of access to such power. It does not imply that women are either totally powerless or totally deprived of rights, influence and resources".  (you can check out her book: The Creation of Patriarchy)

This dominance - and accompanying controls often centered on controlling female sexuality (see section on "Historical Conceptions and Controls' here).  A paper by Prof. Bo Lewin, Uppsala Univ., Sweden, has quite an interesting take on some very possible reasoning:

"...men do not give birth to other men. This is the weak link of patriarchy. Men are, in spite of universally being of the ruling gender, dependent on women to have heirs; And women can be certain about who is their child and who is not, but men cannot be certain about who is the father of the children of their spouse.

 The fecundity of women, and ultimately the sexuality of women hence has to be controlled since this really is the weak spot of patriarchy: Who is the real father of the alleged son and nephew? Because we cannot have wealth and privileges passing to the wrong male child, since that would be totally against the orderly, organised and foreseeable transferral of wealth, power and privileges that to a large extent is what constitutes society! The sexuality of women, thus constitutes a threat to male supremacy and the existing social order."

Lewin continues by observing that often one of two general ways cultures react to this: either by de-sexualizing women or by somehow controlling their sexuality physically.  To address this and to work for progress, Lewin advocates studying the socialization of the particular culture in question and:

"...then to analyse the particular social contexts attempting not only to be descriptive but with an aim of understanding how cultures and sub-cultures have been formed so that we may find exactly those areas where women and men are seen as companions, to find those areas where people are people and not commodities, and to find those areas of these particular cultures and subcultures where the sexuality of women is not perceived as threatening."  I like that.  I like that a lot!

We need to be aware of such strictures and look to progress beyond them.  For example, one might not think of the Civil Rights Movement here, but... I have a copy of the book, At the Dark End of the Street - Black Women, Rape, and Resistance  - a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power (disclaimer: I have not READ the book yet, but author Danielle L McGuire's c-span presentation was quite good!).  In the preliminary pages there is a quote from Gunnar Myrdal from 1944: "Sex is the principle around which the whole structure of segregation... is organized." This volume addresses this very important subtext to the story of the Movement.

Allies

To make progress, we need people of goodwill period, to be allies.

John Adams relinquished his title of master.  And I found this gem from John Stuart Mill:

"That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes — the legal subordination of one sex to the other — is wrong itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other" (from The Subjugation of Women, 1869)

We women also need to step up our game.  It's often said women aren't always the most supportive of other women.  Well, here's a dose of why we SHOULD support each other! I really like #12.

So in spite of resistance, we women (and allies) need to keep persisting as WOMAN is still emerging into the fullness she is destined for.

Remember: comments are gold and sharing is caring!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Moral Values? American Values?

Greetings.  I know it's been a while, so here we go!

I'm quite sure that by now most of you have heard of that infamous speech by our nefarious Sec. of State in which he said: "Our values around freedom, human dignity, the way people are treated – those are our values. Those are not our policies."  He went on to say: "In some circumstances, if you condition our national security efforts on someone adopting our values, we probably can’t achieve our national security goals."  (He seems to have no problem with the Global Gag-Rule which ties our health assistance to some value - oh wait, that's one of the right-wing's values!)  You can read The Guardian report on on that Tillerson 'values' speech here .

Moral Values

Maybe we should start our thoughts here with some words from our Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..  This quote is from a speech he delivered in 1954:  "The first principle of value that we need to rediscover is that all reality hinges on moral foundations.  In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws." 

Critiquing Tillerson's speech, John Kirby, the state department’s former spokesman tweeted: “Divorcing our interests from our values in foreign policy is like trying to plant cut flowers.” 
(from The Guardian's coverage) How can we claim "moral leadership" if we don't champion them at least on some level?  Look at the very recent spectacle of our nutjob  #45 meeting with all those dictators in Saudi-Arabia (and an arms deal!).  He also congratulated the new dictator of Turkey, Erdogan. Our actions do speak, often quite loudly.

Next, please consider this quote from professor/scholar Edward Said:  "Every empire, however, tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate."  (The entire article by Said is worth reading!) Telling thoughts indeed. Wouldn't it be refreshing to see us actually promoting policies and programs that in reality help and empower folks? And once again, I maintain that investing in such initiatives is more productive than investing in guns and bombs. Here is a recent review from Oxfam on some facts about poverty-reducing foreign aid from the U. S.. We're not actually such big givers, which will probably surprise many. Such programs with real local input, however can make a difference.  (Now a quick aside here... recently Cal. State, Fresno made a quite controversial decision to not this year fill the position of an Edward Said Professorship )

Further, isn't there also an old saying that 'if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything'? (The exact origins of this quote are very hard to pin down: there are variants listed from Chaplain Peter Marshall, Ginger Rogers, Malcolm X, Dr. King and a BRITISH Alex Hamilton;  it's often attributed to our A. Hamilton, but with little hard evidence.)  To me this means that although in this life, countries - and we as individuals - sometimes do have to make compromises; but we need to always have our guiding moral principles in mind to make sure we don't stray too far from what we claim to be about.  Our policies should, as much as possible, reflect our commitment to our values, values such as freedom and human dignity, which even Tillerson mentioned.

Values must also not exist in a vacuum. Pres. Thomas Jefferson recognized the need to have laws back up our values.  In a letter to Mordecai Noah (1818) he wrote concerning the religious intolerance often faced by Jewish Americans:  "Your sect, by its sufferings, has furnished a remarkable proof of the universal spirit of religious intolerance inherent in every sect, dis- claimed by all while feeble, and practiced by all when in power. Our laws have applied the only antidote to this vice, protecting our re- ligious as they do our civil rights, by putting all on an equal footing. But more remains to be done, for although we are free by law, we are not so in practice..."  (one place the full text of this letter may be found is in this online volume!)

Our values, our guiding principles must be backed up by laws, policies, programs, and daily actions if they are to be effective in their job of lighting the way forward.  Our job is to keep them in mind always when configuring our decisions and programs.

American Values

So what are American values anyway?  My own list would include: equality, freedom, democracy, social mobility ('The American Dream'), justice, individualism & independence, human dignity,  and the rule of law.

These values are deeper than just "Mom, the flag, and apple pie." They speak to aspirations we still need to work toward.  America has often been called an "Experiment."  Well, doesn't the experimental process usually involve adjusting things? Controls, procedures, or maybe materials, and hypotheses get modified as the quest to answer a question continues.  Thus, we must continue to advocate for changes which will move us closer to the full realization of the values and ideals we supposedly stand for.

American values can even trace their roots back in time!  The Founders were definitely influenced by European Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke.  Locke, in turn, was definitely at least somewhat influenced by Aristotle.  What? Those Ancient Greeks again?  I remember (it was only  - um - X - years ago) a class in Freshman Western Civ., with our most excellent prof, Ms. Audrey.  One day she brought in a travel ad for Greece which had as its main caption "You were born here."   From our study of those Ancient Greeks and our consideration of the values the U. S. supposedly espouses, we decided it rang true.  So the aspirations these ideals speak to didn't just spring up overnight.  It might be "enlightening" if we thought of them as part of an evolving human endeavor.

Conclusion

Values should not be something we intentionally sideline.  They should be a constant source of guidance for our policies and programs.  If we align our decisions properly with our values and ideals, I believe results will be most effective.  And it is also good to keep a bit of historical perspective in mind as well.  And to tie things all together, here is a fantastic quote from Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower. This comes from his First Inaugural Address in 1953:

"A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both...these basic precepts are not lofty abstractions far removed from matters of daily living.  They are laws of spiritual strength that generate and define our material strength."

So on to you, readers.  Any thoughts about values? Please share in comments. 

BONUS!
Here's something I found while working on this post.  A blast from the past which speaks so clearly to us today. 

Please do comment and/or share if you find this or any post here to be of value.  Thanks!


Sunday, April 9, 2017

War - What Is It Good For?


Greetings again...What are we to make of this saber-rattling?  To me it is unbelievable that ANY folks would support this, applaud this, and even say this makes our nutjob "Presidential" ( I'm glad Rather and some others aren't going along.).  If THAT'S their definition of "Presidential" we all need to say what a CROCK that is!

Shouldn't a President show leadership in seeking a BETTER world.  So I ask, how does war advance that?  Shouldn't a President show more thought and care in making decisions than impetuous missile strikes? So I ask, why wasn't this happening in this case?  And and shouldn't a President show respect for our own Constitution and international law? So I unequivocally state: our nutjob-in-chief has not.

Glenn Greenwald tweeted: US goes to war so often & easily that a good number of Americans believe raining down Tomahawk missiles on a country doesn't count as "war"     and

Cites Rep. Justin Amash tweet: 
Airstrikes are an act of war. Atrocities in Syria cannot justify departure from Constitution, which vests in Congress power to commence war.

And it's not just the offhandedness of the strike authorization  or the flaunting of the Constitution. We need to ask again and again, "War - What Is It Good For?"  If you know the song, or if you know in your heart how bad war is, you know the answer!

"It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it."  was said by, of all people, Robert E. Lee, whose first-hand experience in the horrors of our Civil War surely let him to that conclusion.  With the even more devastating weapons we have now, we should take heed of this thought.

War is NOT something to be entered into so cavalierly as this administration has.  It is very serious business, requiring  cool thought and deliberation.  Lives are at stake, not just those of active combatants but increasingly of civilians

War in this technological age is NOT some video game or global virtual chess match.  Real lives are still involved.  We must insist that the media keep reporting this honestly and NOT just become echo chambers for the government.

So War - What Is It Good For ---- ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!  And if you've read along with me, I think you deserve the song!

                                              War - Edwin Starr


If you find this post or any other post here of value, please do comment (would LOVE to hear from readers) and or share. Thanks!

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Is There a Shred of Hope?

Greetings.  I'm not sure exactly what to say, but I'm just too emotional and heartsick not to write something.

I want to scream at people - look at the harm that's being done!  I just cannot see how ANYONE of ANY sort of good will could be party to the mess that we're in.  And it's a huge one - that even a certain nutjob's supporters should have seen coming. Our very democracy is under severe attack, there are missile strikes, civil liberties continue to be attacked, and we haven't even touched on climate concerns yet.

I was half expecting bad news about the nefarious SCOTUS nominee - and yes, it was bad. Commondreams.org listed the 4 Dem. Senate collaborators in voting for cloture, and I posted a link to that article in my twitter feed.  The GOP keeps showing us that they have no thought or care for anything but their own power.  Is there any line they won't cross?

But I was NOT prepared for the horrible news of the missile strikes on Syria.  This is wading in to very deep, dangerous territory ---- and it ignores our Constitution and international law. Trevor Timm in his twitter feed  (he's @trevortimm ) tweeted a video where Brian Williams called these strikes "beautiful" numerous times.  I'm sorry, but destruction and loss of life are certainly not MY idea of beauty.  Timm also has several tweets which show the msm for the most part has failed to be even a bit critical and just be submissive in reporting this.  Sounds a lot like Orwell, doesn't it: "War is Peace."  My mind and spirit are so troubled by this development and I can't help but also wonderalong with Peter Van Buren (see his tweet  in the commondreams article in link above) "No one knows where this ends."

That's certainly bad enough.  And there's more.  The  gov't wants to unmask an anonymous "rogue" twitter account user who has been critical of the admin..  And get this, according to an ACLU spokesperson, "on the face of the summons the government has offered no reason for seeking this information."  As a new twitter user, of course I'm concerned; and everyone else should be as well.  Free Speech needs to apply to ALL!  I'm glad that twitter is filing suit and that the ACLU is defending the user.

I know there's quite a resistance around, but is there hope for getting us out of this mess?  The stakes are too high and I'm concerned as I've never been.  The dangers are real, folks.  I'm not sure about answers, but I AM doing a LOT of praying.

And do remember, if you find this post or any post here of value, please do comment (they're GOLD, remember) and/or share.  Thanks!