Somebody just tweeted a link to an amazing article about the personal life of early 20th century poet and playwright W.H. Auden. Auden was a practicing Christian. This article describes just how seriously he took Christ’s command not to do good deeds “to be seen by men”. In this world of reality television, which respects no boundaries and keeps no secrets, reading this article provided a real boost to my morale.
I knew Auden was a good poet and playwright. I had no idea that he was such a good man as well.
This month The Atlantic published an article titled “The Racist History of Portland, the Whitest City in America”. I react badly to race-baiting, and the title of this article sounded like race baiting to me. However, I went to college in Portland in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and still have ties to the city. So I was curious. and read the article.
Portland when I was in college and now is a “blue” city, a hotbed of progressive politics. Oregon has no history of slavery. I was unaware that Portland also has a history of severe racism. The details shocked me, and I have seen racism. I was born outside of Dallas in the early 1960s and grew up in Texas. Worst of all, the evidence of Portland’s continuing racism was visible when I was there attending college, and I never noticed.
This article got me to thinking about many things, some of them outside of the subject of the article. I want to summarize the story that this well-written and informative piece tells before I go into my own thoughts.
This presidential election year has shaped up to be something I never anticipated. A candidate I both distrust and disagree with on fundamental issues is running against a demagogue who is utterly unqualified by education, temperament or character to be President of the United States. I think the first is less bad than the second, so I’ll probably vote for Hillary Clinton. If there’s any real risk that Donald Trump might win the election, I will also campaign for her.
In the past few months, as a flood of desperate people have escaped Syria and other intolerable places and flooded into Europe, I’ve watched German Chancellor Angela Merkel rise above a massive flood of panic and xenophobia that is sweeping most of Europe, the United States, and many other countries. Merkel could so easily have gone along with calls to close Germany’s borders and refuse to admit any but a tiny number of refugees. Instead, she called on Germany to prepare to admit as many as two million desperate people. In doing so, she has broken all the usual “politician rules”, and might well be voted out of office as a result.
But not if I could help it. Merkel has shown a degree of character, courage in the face of adversary, and basic decency that no other European leader has demonstrated in my lifetime. I’m not sure who I’ll vote for in the upcoming American Presidential election. If I were German, though, I’d know. I don’t care who else was running.
In the past couple of months, some American women whose names I don’t remember have called on all American women to wear headscarves in public to show support for and solidarity with Muslim women in America. That call has led to an active public discussion on Twitter and elsewhere, and several interesting articles published on various news sites and blogs. I’m a non-Muslim American women who has had an unusual degree of contact and interaction with Muslims in the past 25 years. I responded to one of the articles earlier today. On further thought, I decided to expand what I said and post it on my blog as well.
As an undergraduate in the early 1980s, I studied German and Russian literature in college. Over my adult lifetime, however, I’ve felt increasingly out of place in the humanities.
I’m not leftist. I don’t think capitalism is a bad word, although capitalists (like all people) sometimes do bad things and try to justify those things through their ideology. I also think racism is both evil and stupid: in all of its manifestations. So I have been horrified to see racist views come to be acceptable again in the very social and political communities that once loathed and fought racism. The form taken by the “politics of identity”, and the idea that people are defined inexorably by their racial/ethnic/cultural background, is different than that of racism in the early and middle 20th century, but those ideas are fundamentally racist.
The American Civil Liberties Union has posted a web page that tells the stories of a number of military officers and CIA employees who objected to the US use of waterboarding and other forms of torture after 9/11. I just wanted to acknowledge these people who stood up for American values and protected American honor when many of those in power were hell-bent on destroying both of these things.
There’s very little in the redacted executive summary of the Senate’s report on CIA “enhanced interrogation techniques” that is news to me, or most people who have been following this story for the past decade. I’ve been rather quiet because, frankly, I’m so appalled at the fact that so many Americans consider it worth discussing whether torture is ever effective. For me, that’s like discussing whether killing and eating babies can stave off starvation: if you’ve got to that point, you’ve lost. All you are doing is negotiating the terms of surrender to evil, the devil, whatever you want to call it.
The ebola epidemic has reached the United States and at least one country in Europe, although so far it does not look much like an epidemic in either place. (Four people confirmed to have fallen ill in the United States and one in Spain, as opposed to a few thousand in west Africa.) In the middle of all the frightening news, no national health agency (not even the U.S. CDC) has posted a list of effective simple measures that average people can take to protect themselves and their families. There are two reasons for this fact:
- The average person who does not live in west Africa and is not a health care worker has a miniscule chance of ever being exposed to ebola.
- National health agenices such as the U.S. CDC need (and mostly don’t have) PR departments that understand how simple information fights panic about a deadly disease, not just the disease itself.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has created a new web site, Surveillance Self-Defense (ssd.eff.org). The site collects information about surveillance techniques that governments, large companies, marketing firms, criminal organizations, and some individuals are using to track you through the day. It then tells you how to guard against and to some extent prevent that surveillance, or at least keep private those parts of your life that you want to be private.
Bravo! And thanks, EFF. :-)