Friday, November 07, 2008

On Mark VII Blue

By the Way

An almost-belated happy birthday, Amie! :-)

On the Train

GPS is cool.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Mixed Messages

On the one hand:

On the other:

Dreams

I have no idea why, but in high school, I became a large fan of both Romantic poets (as in, from the Romantic period), and Langston Hughes.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
While my favorite Hughes poem is probably either "I, Too," or "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" (I heard a recording of, I think, Avery Brooks reading this once and was enthralled by the rhythm of the language), nothing quite captures frustration and longing like "A Dream Deferred."

Intentional or not (I imagine it was probably intentional), Dr. King used the dream motif as well, in a quote that most everyone has probably heard.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

. . . 
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, . . . little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

 . . . With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
I must admit to pessimism.  I never thought that America was ready to elect a person of color (or a woman) to the White House.  I'm still not, if I'm entirely honest, convinced of Obama's safety, should he actually win -- as it's looking he will.

I must also admit to cynicism.  No one politician can change the world.  That President Bush was able to ram the PATRIOT Act down Americans' throats and change as much as he has has got to be a historical anomaly.  Although Obama's politics more closely mirror my own, I doubt very much that he will live up to the nation's hopes -- but then, neither would McCain should he win.  There's too much to do, and politics just doesn't work that way.

But for today -- just for today -- I want to say congratulations to America for looking beyond its troubled past.  Just for today.  Even should McCain pull a rabbit out of his hat, Barack Obama is within 70 electoral college votes of the presidency.  That in itself is huge.

Now, about that whole "equality" thing?  That "free at last" thing?  That "let freedom ring" thing?

Go vote no on 8.  If you haven't already.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Those Darn Commercials

Consider this your warning: This will be long.

I mostly try to avoid politics here; I really do.  From what I can tell, my regular readers share my view -- but who knows?  I might have nerdy conservative lurkers out there.  Who knows, right?

But I can't let this go.  The "Yes on 8" commercials are driving me freaking insane -- especially the one about teaching second graders about same-sex marriage.

Okay, first off?  Check out the English Language Arts and Social Studies content standards (PDFs), and search "marriage," "marry," "family," etc., and see how far it gets you.  Not very, that's how far.

Second.  There are already books dealing with same-sex couples.  People have complained for years about all sorts of books.  Don't believe me?  Google "banned books" and see what you get.

Third.  When I had Space Cadet J in my class, her family didn't want anything to do with Halloween (for religious reasons).  Knowing this, I made my Halloween vocabulary homework optional.  Her mom said that they'd discussed not having her do it, and took the opportunity to explain what Halloween was and why they didn't believe in it.  If your school does teach same-sex marriage (which is NOT in the content standards), if you feel so moved, take the opportunity to tell your child why you don't believe in it.

Fourth.  Pardon the yelling.

RELIGIOUS MARRIAGE DOES NOT EQUAL CIVIL MARRIAGE.

Want proof?

Go get married in a church, don't get a marriage license, and see what the government says when you try to claim a benefit of marriage.

Then, go get a marriage license but don't get married in a church, and see what the government says when you try to claim a benefit of marriage.

Making same-sex marriage legal -- or, rather, keeping it legal -- does not compel your church to marry same-sex couples.  I would venture to say that there may be churches out there that won't marry mixed-race couples.  Fifth Grade Teacher E's rabbi wouldn't marry her son because he married a Catholic girl.

ALL.  TOTALLY.  LEGAL.

Fifth.

Again, pardon the yelling.

FOR FRELL'S SAKE, HOW DOES IT IMPACT YOU IF TWO OTHER PEOPLE GET MARRIED?

I mean, really.  It's not like they'll run out of marriage licenses.

It's infuriating.

Marriage, as far as the government is concerned, is a civil contract between two people that entails both rights and responsibilities.  Denying a marriage license to two people of the same gender is discrimination because it's telling one of the two that they can't get a marriage license because of their gender.

It's not right.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It may seem odd that someone raised in a conservative family who went to a conservative Lutheran elementary school, a Catholic middle and high school, and a Lutheran college would hold such views.  Because of that, I probably should share a little.

I was raised in a very sheltered environment.  My elementary school was extremely small, and -- for the most part -- not very diverse.  How small?  I was one of four graduating sixth graders.

So you'll pardon me that I was close to thirteen-ish before I realized that my uncle's sister (who had been bringing her "friend" to family-only events for years) was gay.

In my freshman year of high school, I had a very forward thinking religion/sex ed teacher (yes, our semester of sex ed was considered our religion class for the semester) who showed an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation to explain homosexuality.  She explained that the character who had committed the heinous act, according to her society, of being born a female in a genderless society was roughly equivalent to someone who was born gay.

While she was bogged down in what is (to my understanding) still current Catholic dogma -- that is, being gay isn't a sin but acting on it and having intercourse is -- it was remarkably progressive, given the environment.

Because of that, I was already predisposed to believe that being gay was just a genetic variation -- and (and this is key) something over which one does not have control.

So, that was percolating in the back of my brain as I became interested in Babylon 5 -- but I still totally missed the Susan/Talia thing until Susan blurted out at the end of an episode that she had loved Talia.  (Actually, the line was "I think I loved Talia," which I always found very poignant.)

Meanwhile (this is important, I promise), Leonardo DiCaprio was becoming the Next Big Thing.  (I'll get there; I promise.)

Also meanwhile, I was developing a "relationship radar" -- that is, if I watch a show for more than an episode or two, I can generally sense which characters will eventually pair off.  Whether it's because writers are transparent or because several years of scouring every detail of Babylon 5 and Star Trek for hidden clues predisposed me to look harder and catch subtle clues, I don't know, but the effect was the same.

By my freshman year of college, the Internet happened.  Being the inquisitive sort, I checked out Star Trek fan sites within weeks of starting college.  Being the naive sort, I did not anticipate -- at all -- the...ahem...varied views one can find in fandom regarding relationships.

That is, I had no idea about Rule 34 :  If it exists, people will 'ship it.  (Well, technically the rule is "if it exists, there is p*rn for it," but I can count on one hand the number of things with a greater-than-R rating I've ever read...and the ones I have involved a lot of skimming and page-down-ing.)

Boy, oh, boy, was I in for a shock.

Most of the pairings made very little to no literary sense -- that is, I just could not see how anyone thought the original "text" of the show suggested a relationship of any kind.  But it did force me to examine whether I was reacting negatively to a lot of those things because I am a bit of a canon-snob (in other words, you have to convince me that your story could conceivably happen on the show) or because of the content.

Well, around that time, Titanic smashed into the box office, and every female on the planet was swooning over Leonardo DiCaprio.

I didn't get it.  (I still don't.)

Now, Jason Carter?  Sure.  Kevin Smith (the kiwi, not the Jay and Silent Bob guy).  Heck yeah.  The guy who played Gunn on Angel?  Oooh, boy yes.  Honestly...Leonard Nimoy?  Uh huh.

But Leo DiCaprio?

Meh.

And I realized that if I was not able to convince my hormones that he was OMG THE BEST THING EVER...how could I expect someone else to make their hormones react to another gender?

Meanwhile, I was home for winter break and forced to watch only channel 5 due to having a c-band satellite in one room and an iffy antenna on the other.  I flipped onto an episode of Xena ("The Quest ," as it happens), and within 20 minutes, my relationship radar was going off the charts, and I was...a bit confused.  Had I flipped into the episode five minutes earlier and seen the much-discussed kiss...I doubt I would have been confused.

I don't read much fan fiction online anymore (and I find it infinitely amusing that of the little I do, they are written by opposite ends of the political spectrum, even though the second show isn't overtly conservative), but I do read Missy Good.

I found her second story, At a Distance, on one of my first searches into online Xena stuff, when I was still trying to figure out what was going on with my relationship radar.  I had no idea what "alt" was, and by the time I got to that one scene ("The feeling was stronger now..."), I didn't care.  I was hooked, and have been ever since.

It's been fun watching her writing develop over the past -- Good Lord -- twelve years.  I'm not the only one; she eventually ended up writing two episodes of the sixth season and collaborated on a musical episode that, sadly, never aired (I'd have killed to hear Xena sing "Last Dance.").

And I'm going to borrow her words -- words I read, if I'm not mistaken, when I was a sophomore in college -- to end this, because it was reading them that I became absolutely, unequivocally, a proponent of same-sex rights.  They hit me that hard.

"There was so much hate in his voice…I don't understand, Dar...how can people hate you for something as beautiful as loving someone?"

Vote no on 8.

Please.