We have spoken to your mother. We know everything.
Cultures and societies assign a kind of sanctity to some institutions and ideas. We educate children in a certain way, we have established work patterns and ethics and we have institutionalized and even idealized (invisible) aging and retirement.
Forced or otherwise, retirement has literally destroyed the lives of countless Americans. As we grow older as a nation and society and live healthier and longer lives, retirement removes some of the valuable human capital from the pool of useful wisdom and insight. Capable people are taken out of the race, and their hard earned experience and assets are wasted. This is nothing short of a human, cultural and social disaster. Younger people learn that if society will not assign great value to the potential of the aging, why should they? If our culture regards older people as a burden, is it any surprise that people who worship the appearance of youth will feel burdened and overwhelmed in the presence of older people? Our parents can only serve as a painful reminder of what is to come- and a reminder that we cannot overcome nature, no matter how tightly we shut our eyes or how many times we click our heels in fervent wishing. We too will age. No wonder parents and grandparents are relegated to nursing homes and elder care facilities. Out of sight, out of mind.
How we have come to treat our older citizens is the 800 lb gorilla that no one wants to talk about. How do begin to address the issue? How do we deal with what has become a human, cultural and societal problem? The answers are not so evident. The only thing for sure is that there is no one size fits all when it comes to dealing with aging or retired Americans any more than there is a one size fits all solution for any other big social problem. With the reality of living longing and healthier lives, it is clear that we need to address how we integrate aging and retirement into our new realities. This process is evolutionary. Those societies who redefine aging and retirement will progress. Those who do not will fall behind. Experienced human capital cannot be ignored or neglected any more than can future generations.
Redefining aging and retirement must have two components. There must be a concerted effort to change current practices, customs and beliefs of the cultural value system that serves as the foundation and we have to address how older and retired persons see themselves and their place and value in society. Older people must be in an obstacle free, cultural environment where they are free to continue to make contributions to society.
Business, media and political attitudes must change. When that happens, our culture and society will reflect that change. The other side of that coin is equally balanced. The self perception of older people (and anyone who is is experiencing life passages) must change as well. They need to believe they are not useless and in fact are a tremendous appreciating asset, by way of their wisdom and experience. Aging and retirement serve to liberate people from the punch clock life. The opportunities to serve and find new outlets for the wisdom, creativity and experiences of a lifetime are spectacular. Older people can change the world we live in and make it a better place.
The institutions that we have established to serve the needs of older people must be redefined. Day care for adults is most often no more than day care for adults. While those kind of institutions may serve the needs of some, it is clear that there is an ever growing population of older people who want and need to do something contributory and productive with their lives.
Colleges and universities can make classes and courses free or of little cost to older Americans. The benefits to young students sharing a classroom with older Americans too numerous to mention. Older students can challenge professors and teachers with ideas and observations born of experience. Younger students could only benefit from the wisdom shared in the classroom. More importantly, integrating older people with young students can only serve to benefit society as a whole. Young people who integrate their older peers are less likely to see them as 'valueless' or 'irrelevant.' Wisdom and insight have a profound effect on how we see our world and how we integrate new ideas. There is a reason teachers influence students and when it is all said and done, you can never have too many teachers. Older students have a real thirst and hunger for knowledge (it isn't as if they have to be in school). Their enthusiasm for learning can only serve as a lifelong good example.Our last installment will posted on Friday.
POSITIVE: Item shipped quickly, have been having erotic dreams about seller. Thanks!
POSITIVE: Thanks for great Rainbow Brite lunchbox. Should shrunken head be inside?
NEUTRAL: Excellent communication, but should've poked holes in box before shipping the kitten. Refunded.
NEGATIVE: Despite indication in listing, I could not fit item into any of my body cavities.
NEGATIVE: Honda R-Type sticker did not add horsepower as advertised.
NEUTRAL: Item shipped promptly and in good condition, but I should not have to bid on birthday presents from my parents.
POSITIVE: I don't really remember what I ordered. But I've been sitting in the box it came in all day, and it's great!
NEGATIVE: Product didn't work, possibly broken. I woke up this morning and was disappointed to find I still believe in Jesus Christ our Savior. :(
POSITIVE: Excellent Buyer. A++++++. Thrilled by the quartz movement of the "Rolex". HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
NEGATIVE: Should have been clearer that seller only accepts payment in Bhats via Eastern Union Moneygram.
POSITIVE: Plain brown packaging seemed to fool my wife. Thanks!
NEGATIVE: The dog won't hunt.
NEGATIVE: Very nice monkey mascot costume, but it's a size 34, not a 63 as advertised.
NEGATIVE: Lederhosen not as pink as the picture led me to believe.
POSITIVE: A+++++. Items are exactly as described. Best case of kalashnikovs I've ever bought. Allah Akbar!
NEGATIVE: This is clearly the ninth, NOT THE SIXTH, repackaging of Mad Super Special #24.
POSITIVE: One of the scents mixed in with the packing peanuts remind me of a passionate weekend in Rio... was that you?
POSITIVE: The way you wrote my zip-code makes me weak in the knees. Such smooth strokes. A+!
NEGATIVE: Though you did nothing wrong, I am giving you this negative feedback to teach you that the universe is arbitrary and unfair.
This is the second in a series. See Transcending Youth, Part One.
There is a correlation between physical health and productivity of the physical or intellectual varieties. To a great extent, our lives are lived as a complex relationship between body and spirit. We are happiest and most productive when we are of a 'sound mind and sound body.'
As we age, our physicality diminishes and our productivity declines. This is an immutable law of nature. How we respond to this truth demarcates how we actually see ourselves and our value to others. If the singular purpose of the spirit and soul is to feed the physical wants and desires of the physical self, then the spirit and soul also diminish with the aging process. For those who believe that our physicality defines our drive and worth, the quality of life diminishes as well. The self fulfilling prophecy of their decline is inevitable. They become bored, wracked by feelings of desperation, despair and feelings of futility. If however, a person regards the body as an accessory to the spirit and soul, aging invites the growth of the spirit and soul, independent of the body's capacities. The are examples of retired persons flourishing, chasing dreams and doing the kinds of work they could only dream of in their younger years. Doctors retire and go on to Africa or open clinics. Retired lawyers go on to build houses or teach kids how to read. There is no shortage of examples of what can be done even as our physicality wanes. In fact, exercising our spirit and soul has long proved to be the tonic for a diminishing physicality.
Still, we need to really understand aging. The process we will all face is about more than the denial of that process and the inevitable war waged between the body and spirit. There is more to the aging and the passage of time than the struggle between our physical needs and desires and our spiritual needs and desires.
We live in a culture and society that assigns productive and non productive phases of our lives. For the first couple of decades of our lives, we get a free pass- we are not expected to achieve anything, at least not in the adult sense. Our lives are guided by others. Those years are spent in school, amassing knowledge, acquiring the rudiments of a skill and learning the rules that govern our society. For the following 30 to 40 years, we are on stage. Our skills, ideas and creativity are given a stage of sorts. Some of us aspire to do our job well. Others put in time only and are productive only as much is necessary. All in all, we are expected to take over those who have preceded us and are now passive. We are also expected to prepare those behind us to replace us.
Our culture and society dictate that we are supposed to take our now honed skills, knowledge and creativity and put them away because we are getting older. As a certain birthday approaches, achievements are to be arbitrarily put on the shelf. Overnight, the older person is moved to the sidelines of life. Any creativity or ideas that still bubble over are meant to be directed into harmless pastimes. The 'twilight of our lives' are meant to be spent in mindless and meaningless endeavors. Once we reach a certain age, we are supposed to believe that time itself has less value. We come full circle, back to our childhood. We are not expected to really contribute. As in childhood, we are told what is best for us. Our still valuable potential to do, achieve and mentor is packed away in boxes and put into permanent storage.
As we noted, there are individuals who choose a different kind of aging, but they are the exception and not the rule. Our culture exerts might forces on us to behave in certain ways when we reach a certain ways (4:00 PM Early Bird specials, anyone?)
For a very good look at how our society and culture views aging, see Laurie Kendrick's Home, in which she poignantly describes a visit to her childhood home and her description of the people and places she once knew. Her remarks offer a remarkable contrast between her life and the lives she left behind, as well as her perceptions and the perceptions of others:
Then I saw people I knew. Or people I once knew.
I didn’t know these versions of my “life shapers”–people who were so instrumental in helping me create the person I’ve become. They were people I knew as a kid: adults, teachers, parents of friends I’d grown up with. Their faces were in so many photographs of my memory–but not these faces. I didn’t recognize them. Who were they? What happened? They had the audacity to get old. And they had the temerity to hammer that point home by their blatant use of hearing aids, wheelchairs, canes, walkers…senility.
In truth, we can (and should be) productive throughout all our lives. Of course, we don't expect the same kind of productive life from a child a we do from an adult, but that has to do with the capacity and ability and not expectation. Some children go on to succeed and excel because parents have an expectation of productivity. Some retirees go on to exceed and excel because they place certain expectations on themselves. Those who believe they are expected to lead productive lives throughout their lives are happy people. They get to take with them their achievements, wisdom and skills to make a difference in the lives of others till the day they die. With each day, there is more real work to be done, more necessary work.
Adults who are overwhelmed with the burdens and tests of life often recall their childhood, longingly. They think of that time, with no responsibilities and no obligation to be productive as a Garden of Eden. Of course, those people often forget that even as children, they wanted to be be productive, creative and real. An unwritten truth of the ages is that a child who is appropriately challenged and charged with responsibilities will flourish. A child from whom there are no expectations will be a passive and unproductive. This should come as no surprise because a lack of expectations defies nature. From the moment a child is brought into this world, he or she desires to achieve. The infant learns he or she can influence surroundings. Parents are stimulated to respond and display affection and the desire to learn is unstoppable. Children of whom nothing is expected are denied their nature. They will become depressed, dysfunctional and rebellious.
That same reality applies to aging adults. The notion that non productivity can be a fulfilling experience also defies nature. Every human being understands that happiness comes about as the result of meaningful and productive contributions throughout his or her life. Simply 'passing time' is not the same as productivity, no matter the manner in which that time is passed. Throughout our lives, a certain truth is remains unchanged- the more we challenge ourselves to find an outlet for our creativity and productivity and to make a meaningful contribution to others, the happier we are.
At no point in our lives are we meant to be passive. We are endowed with creativity and the desire to be productive because creativity and productivity are perhaps the most important part of the human condition. Creativity and productivity are essential to who we are as a species. We are designed to explore, to challenge and to achieve and not just survive. We meant to improve our lives, our world and the lives of the people around us. These truths do not change with the passing of a birthday or mandatory retirement. The drive to achieve, explore and progress is no less real or powerful than the drive to survive.
The drive to achieve and to be productive is another of the unique characteristics that define what is to be human.
It has long been rumored that W. R. Grace Co. was considering buying the Fuller Brush Company, along with Mary Kay Cosmetics. When that transaction is completed, they would then merge with the Hale Business Systems. This mega-corporate entity could be known as Hale Mary Fuller Grace.
Proposed merger: Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers, to be called Fairwell Honeychild.
Rumored merger: Wurlitzer with Xerox. They are going to market reproductive organs.
Possible merger: Warner Brothers, Polygraph Records and Keebler -- to be called... Poly-Warner-Cracker.
3M and Goodyear merger: mmmGood
John Deere and Abitibi-Price: Deere Abi
Zippo Manufacturing, Audi, Dofasco and Dakota Mining: Dip Audi Do Da
Swissair and Cheseborough-Ponds: Swisschese
Honeywell, Imasco and Home Oil: Honey, I'm Home
Luvs Diapers and Hertz Rent-a-Car: Luv Herts
Upjohn and Chuckie Cheese Pizza: UpChuck
White Castle Burgers and Glad Trash Bags: White Trash Bags.It's Monday. Deal with it.
Some numbers don't lie.
America and Europe are getting older.
We don't want to discuss the whys of aging societies and we don't want to discuss those societies that are experiencing a population boom. We just want to consider what it means to getting older.
In virtually every society and culture, aging is a virtual blessing. We are supposed to respect older people regardless of their station in life. Older people are believed to have acquired wisdom by way of their experiences, successful and failed, that even the most successful young wunderkind cannot even begin to fathom. With each passing year, we are supposed to acquire wisdom and insight- and we are supposed to pass on the benefits of our accumulated wisdom.
Today, in most of the first world countries, aging has become a liability.
For most of the last century, ours is a culture where the highest form of currency is youth. 'Learning by trial and error' or 'learning from their own mistakes' is the mantra because today, older people compete with younger people. Young people are not building on the experiences of those who preceded them because those who precede them are taking every opportunity to sabotage and usurp those following.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that younger people are morally confused. They have grown up in an environment where those who should know better don't care. They learn that 'all is fair' in the game that pits real youth in the game of life to the pretenders to youth.
Still, no matter how ferocious attempt to obviate nature, time will not be denied. The devotion to youth upends those who chase what will soon represent the lesser part of our lives. At 40 we enter middle age. At 50, we are reminded that there are those in the wings who are waiting for us to give way, for no other reason than our experiences and wisdom are of less value than youth. Mandatory retirement is no gift or recognition or achievement. It is the conclusion of a process that institutionalizes a process of inactivity and decline at an age when most of us have the capacity, wisdom and insight to be most productive.
As we age, we made to feel as if we are barely tolerated. A lifetime of struggles, acquired wisdom and learned skills and talents are suddenly worthless. Rather than seen as contributors, We be identified as recipients, of pensions, Social Security and programs that are meant to give us meaning. We become a burden.
It is true that as we age, our physicality declines. There is a reason there are no 59 year old football players. It is also true that 75 year olds pull fewer all nighters than 21 year olds.
Of course, that begs certain questions: Is a person's worth and value determined by his or her physicality? Is a persons worth or value determined by how many hours of overtime that can be extracted from him or her? By their ability to recover from jet lag quickly?
What does it say about us as wards of culture where masses of people are swept aside because of their year of birth? What does it say about us as we label people 'less fit; because they were born a decade or two before ourselves? What does these realities say about our values?
There are many who are less physical than they used to be, and at the same time they have accumulated much wisdom and insight. Are those people in decline or have they grown? Do we measure the value of output by quantity or quality?
As we noted earlier, 'a 75 year old can pull fewer all nighters than a 21 year old.' That said, we ahave tp ask ourselves a few more questions: Is the purpose of our existence to pull all nighters? Or are meant to contribute something meaningful and lasting? If we understand that our legacy will be measured in how we left this world a better and more meaningful place, then it becomes immediately apparent that our maturity, wisdom and insight are of far greater value than our physicality. When this truth is realized, the maturity, wisdom and spirituality of those with the experiences of life under their belts more than compensates for their diminished physicality. As our physicality declines, our priorities are reevaluated and ordered- and that usually results in making the four cubits we inhabit and beyond, a better place.
From The Guardian:
'I never saw my father, my mother, my sister; they went to heaven through the chimneys of Auschwitz.'
The commander of the Exodus, the ship that carried Jewish immigrants to Palestine a year before the state of Israel was established, has died. Yossi Harel passed away yesterday after suffering a heart attack. He was 90.
Twenty-five thousand Holocaust survivors packed onto four ships under Harel's command between late 1945 and early 1948. They sailed to Israel in an attempt to overcome British-imposed immigration limits on Jews. It was known as the 'Aliyah Bet' ('Aliyah B') movement - a phrase derived from the term 'Aliyah Aleph' ('Aliyah A'), which was given to the limited legal immigration permitted by Britain, which then ran Palestine.
The most famous of these ships was the Exodus, which was immortalised in the film of the same name directed by Otto Preminger and starring Robert Newman.
Harel's daughter, Sharon, described her father as one of a 'generation of giants' who rarely spoke about his career in the Israel Defence Forces and the secret service, Mossad.
As a young man Harel became involved with the pre-Israel independent Haganah forces, a role that would see him be placed in charge of the effort to smuggle Jewish immigrants past the British blockades. The Exodus set sail on 11 July 1947 from a small harbour near Marseille. There were 4,554 Holocaust survivors jammed on board, none of whom were able to get immigration permits.
The British fleet attacked the ship with gas bombs, forcing it to retreat and its passengers to return to the German camps from where they had come. Harel later said that every one of the people on board had an 'equivalent story'. One boy he described had dug tunnels from a Nazi-guarded ghetto to the city outside. His father wanted his sister to escape but she refused to leave her parents. The boy later told Harel: 'I never saw my father, my mother, my sister; they went to heaven through the chimneys of Auschwitz.'
In a biography of Harel, the novelist and journalist Yoram Kaniuk argues that his efforts led to the formation of Israel: 'The state of Israel was not born on 15 May 1948, when it was formally declared at the Tel Aviv Museum. It was born a year earlier, on 18 July 1947, when a battered American ship, the 'President Warfield,' renamed 'Exodus 1947,' limped into the port of Haifa,' he wrote. Others have likened it to the 'Boston Tea Party', which led to the American War of Independence.
Kaniuk paints a picture of Harel as a bold, adventurous and responsible man whose family had settled in Palestine in the 18th century. He joined the Haganah at the age of 14.
In 2007 Harel was awarded a prize, that was given the name of Exodus, by the Italian government for his efforts to promote peace and humanitarianism. The award is presented every year in La Spezia, Italy, where the ship was renovated for its mission.
In the last few years of his life, Harel spent time collecting Russian art and pursuing business ventures. He will be buried on a kibbutz tomorrow.
A psychiatrist was crossing a road one day when a frog called out to him and said, "If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess".
He bent over, picked up the frog and put it in his pocket.
The frog spoke up again and said, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I will stay with you for one week."
The psychiatrist took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it and returned it to the pocket.
The frog then cried out, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I'll stay with you and do ANYTHING you want."
Again the psychiatrist took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket.
Finally, the frog asked, "What is the matter? I've told you I'm a beautiful princess, that I'll stay with you for a week and do anything you want. Why won't you kiss me?"
The guy said, "Look I'm an psychiatrist. I don't have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog, now that's cool."
Yesterday, Dr Sanity wrote The Psychological Cost Of War, a look at the media, leftist bloggers and ideologues and how they cultivate an environment that contributes to re acclimation problems suffered by returning US military personnel from theaters of war.
There was an interesting "exposé" in the news the other day, which I'm sure will receive a lot of attention by the lefty blogs--intent as they are in always bruiting the evil of the US military.
It never occurs to them that they themselves represent at least one of the reasons why military personnel are sometimes unable to come to terms with the actions they are called upon to do in war...
The entire piece is a rather insightful look at psychiatric and psychological issues that soldiers in the field and returning soldiers must deal with. She traces the history of returning soldiers and the correlation of their return with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) and other psychological problems.
We noted in a conversation with Dr Sanity yesterday that there was a profound difference between soldiers returning from the Second World War theaters of war and soldiers retuning today. That difference has to do with time and decompression.
When the wars in Europe and Pacific ended, soldiers remained in place for some six months before they were able to return home. They were surrounded by people who experienced the war with them- friend or foe- or at the very least, people who understood what was the reality of war. Soldiers 'decompressed' by engaging in all manner of reconstruction activities and work that was to help bring those ravaged communities and nations back to normal.
When those American and allied soldiers returned home, they were returning with the experiences of rebuilding and reconstruction as well as the darker experiences of war. It is true they returned home to a heroes welcome but the 'Greatest Generation' cared little for parades or recognition. They knew they had participated in the liberation and then rebuilding of nations. After seeing the gratitude of those they helped, they wanted to come home and build and help their own. History teaches that is exactly what they did, in ways not seen before or since.
Within 24 hours today, a soldier is whisked from the battlefield to a boutique brew pub, with no decompression or acclimation to his or her new realities. They have no time to assign a value or meaning to what they have done, why they have done it and for whom they have done it.
Instead, they are met and assaulted with a barrage of salvos that critique their very existence. They are traitors, they are told. They are killers, they are led to believe and perhaps worst of all they are told their lives have no meaning and that they are not as worthy as human beings as those who criticize them.
Is it any wonder that so many anti war groups are fronted by former soldiers desperately rejecting one identity in search of another? The rejections are complete and final, all bridges burned. Nothing in the military is worthy and no one in the military can be redeemed. These former warriors are manipulated much in the way Cindy Sheehan was manipulated. Handled by cynical agendistas, Sheehan wanted you to believe that she alone was the legitimate voice of mothers who lost sons in Iraq or Afghanistan. It mattered little to her or her handlers that the vast majority of mothers of lost sons saw things very differently. Sheehan's handlers were to milk the cow until she was no longer of value. Predictably, when her time as a 'useful idiot; was up, Sheehan wasn't put out to pasture. She was abandoned at the side of the road to fend for herself. The same is true of those who 'care' about the vets returning from the battlefield. One their usefulness has been exploited, those vets will be kicked to the curb.
We propose that the last two or three months of every tour of duty be devoted to matters of reconstruction and rebuilding projects, be it in Iraq or Afghanistan. Soldiers who leave the battlefield to help rebuild and repair, like their predecessors in Europe and the Pacific, will leave their own meaningful mark behind them and at the same time, begin a program of reintroduction into society. With that kind of decompression time, coupled with the real, meaningful experience of rebuilding and helping others, returning vets will have little trouble facing those who are determined to negate their experiences and existence.
They will have the kind of experience actually helping, rebuilding and caring for others their critics only talk about- but never seem to actually do.
In discussing this idea with Dr Sanity, she suggested several weeks of "R&R" before the return to home front realities and stresses would go a long way in preventing or ameliorating the traumas war veterans encountered. This R&R could be any place where veterans could meet spouses and/or other loved ones in asupportive , relaxed environment without pressure or obligation to anyone but self. In the past, many returning vets came home via Hawaii or other places they could spend time enjoying themselves in the company of others who were returning from the same places and stresses they shared, without having to immediately deal with the stresses and problems that await them at home.
Besides counseling services, a thourough medical exam (including a psychological evaluation) and debriefing as well as a chance to give the returning soldier a chance to fully decompress from his or her experiencesprior to assuming non combat or civilian responsibilities would go a long way in easing the transition from the battlefield to peacetime for most vets.
Dr Sanity’s The Psychological Cost Of War is an important look at real problems that have been exacerbated by people with an agenda to to do just that. It is a twofold tragedy. Firstly, that these returning vets are struggling with those very real problems and secondly, they are being exploited by the very people who pretend to care.
Aliza Shavrts, Most Stupid Yale Graduate Of The Year, speaks about the recent brouhaha over her induced abortion 'art.'
For the past year, I performed repeated self-induced miscarriages. I created a group of fabricators from volunteers who submitted to periodic STD screenings and agreed to their complete and permanent anonymity. From the 9th to the 15th day of my menstrual cycle, the fabricators would provide me with sperm samples, which I used to privately self-inseminate. Using a needleless syringe, I would inject the sperm near my cervix within 30 minutes of its collection, so as to insure the possibility of fertilization. On the 28th day of my cycle, I would ingest an abortifacient, after which I would experience cramps and heavy bleeding.
To protect myself and others, only I know the number of fabricators who participated, the frequency and accuracy with which I inseminated and the specific abortifacient I used. Because of these measures of privacy, the piece exists only in its telling. This telling can take textual, visual, spatial, temporal and performative forms — copies of copies of which there is no original.
This piece — in its textual and sculptural forms — is meant to call into question the relationship between form and function as they converge on the body. The artwork exists as the verbal narrative you see above, as an installation that will take place in Green Hall, as a time-based performance, as a independent concept, as a myth and as a public discourse.
It creates an ambiguity that isolates the locus of ontology to an act of readership. An intentional ambiguity pervades both the act and the objects I produced in relation to it. The performance exists only as I chose to represent it. For me, the most poignant aspect of this representation — the part most meaningful in terms of its political agenda (and, incidentally, the aspect that has not been discussed thus far) — is the impossibility of accurately identifying the resulting blood. Because the miscarriages coincide with the expected date of menstruation (the 28th day of my cycle), it remains ambiguous whether the there was ever a fertilized ovum or not. The reality of the pregnancy, both for myself and for the audience, is a matter of reading.
This ambivalence makes obvious how the act of identification or naming — the act of ascribing a word to something physical — is at its heart an ideological act, an act that literally has the power to construct bodies. In a sense, the act of conception occurs when the viewer assigns the term “miscarriage” or “period” to that blood.
In some sense, neither term is exactly accurate or inaccurate; the ambiguity is not merely a matter of context, but is embodied in the physicality of the object. This central ambiguity defies a clear definition of the act. The reality of miscarriage is very much a linguistic and political reality, an act of reading constructed by an act of naming — an authorial act.
It is the intention of this piece to destabilize the locus of that authorial act, and in doing so, reclaim it from the heteronormative structures that seek to naturalize it.
As an intervention into our normative understanding of “the real” and its accompanying politics of convention, this performance piece has numerous conceptual goals. The first is to assert that often, normative understandings of biological function are a mythology imposed on form. It is this mythology that creates the sexist, racist, ableist, nationalist and homophobic perspective, distinguishing what body parts are “meant” to do from their physical capability. The myth that a certain set of functions are “natural” (while all the other potential functions are “unnatural”) undermines that sense of capability, confining lifestyle choices to the bounds of normatively defined narratives.
Just as it is a myth that women are “meant” to be feminine and men masculine, that penises and vaginas are “meant” for penetrative heterosexual sex (or that mouths, anuses, breasts, feet or leather, silicone, vinyl, rubber, or metal implements are not “meant” for sex at all), it is a myth that ovaries and a uterus are “meant” to birth a child.
When considering my own bodily form, I recognize its potential as extending beyond its ability to participate in a normative function. While my organs are capable of engaging with the narrative of reproduction — the time-based linkage of discrete events from conception to birth — the realm of capability extends beyond the bounds of that specific narrative chain. These organs can do other things, can have other purposes, and it is the prerogative of every individual to acknowledge and explore this wide realm of capability.
A sampling of comments:
Yesterday, The Anchoress wrote The Shepherd Who Is Led, at Pajamas Media.
Her piece is a rich, satisfying and meaningful look at the life of Benedict XVI and the world in which he and his flock live. She examines the the impact this pontiff has made and she sees with great clarity the direction in which this papacy is headed.
The Anchoress speaks of what is greatness:
Many times this past week Benedict revealed himself to have an exquisite sense of proportion, of knowing what is appropriate to the moment...
There was nothing dramatic in his expression. He did not mug for the camera or demonstrate his prayer beyond his posture and closed eyes; he allowed us our dignity while keeping his own...
America has been spiritually and politically reeling since 9/11, struggling to find balance in a world full of new challenges and ugly realities. It has been a bloody and divisive effort and Americans are weary. In a tumultuous election year, we are trying to regroup and find our way. And we still mourn; we mourn our dead and the loss of our youthful, trusting innocence. Benedict came into all of that. He prayed; he met; he listened; he entered into the pain.
And he does so, as the Anchoress notes, 'an exquisite sense of proportion.'
As every artist will tell you, to understand what is proportion is to have a clear understanding of what is perception. To understand what is perception is to have a clear understanding of reality.
Benedict XVI see the world and understands the lessons that must be learned and taught with a clear moral vision. His words on the potential catastrophe posed by moral relativism could not be more clear or instructive.
One cannot claim to be an inheritor of Gandhi and at the same time, make room for and embrace the viciousness and violence that defined Che Guevara and Castro. One cannot claim to respect freedom and at the same time admire Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales even as they strip rights away from their own citizens. The message of Martin Luther King, Jr cannot be reconciled with the messages of Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers. Social justice has no room for hate or bomb throwers or terrorists. None.
To support the rights of some women and at the same time, choose to ignore the women of Darfur or other nations, societies or cultures that oppress women, is not to be a supporter of womens rights or even human rights.
Benedict XVI addresses and confronts radical Islam with the same moral clarity. After almost 750 years, nearly three quarters of a millennium after the last Crusade and the enormous amount of good done by the church, this latest papal shepherd has every right to note that killing God's name is very different than saving lives in God's name. There is no moral relativism between the Christianity today and radical Islam and there is no equality between those who abhor and reject violence versus those who celebrate and support violence.
The Church, while not perfect, has educated hundreds of millions of children over generations Day in and day out and without much in the way of thanks, the Church perseveres. Wherever the Church has gone to build schools and teach, the results are become evident very quickly. Lives improve and hope becomes more than an empty word. Wherever the Church is banned or persecuted, populations are abandoned and left without hope.
The same Church feeds, clothes and tends to the needs of hundreds of millions of the poor and most disenfranchised of God's children and does so without fanfare or demand for recognition. These efforts, made possible by armies of anonymous individuals that often span lifetimes and generations, are the legacies that are achieved only by way of understanding the magnitude or proportion of the work that must be done.
The tragedy of the child abuse scandals and subsequent behavior of some in positions of authority cannot be swept away. This pope has addressed the issue head on and has made clear that the Church will not tolerate those who might abuse her position in the community. Most importantly, the buck has stopped on Benedict XVI desk. He met with victims of the abuse, without cameras and or ulterior motives. Meeting with the victims of abuse offered no upside or positive spin for him or the Church. The encounter only brought back bitter and painful memories. The pontiff met with those victims because he understood that only his involvement and participation in the healing process could undo the imbalance imposed by the tragedy. His message was clear. The prayers and hopes for the victims weren't local issues- they pain suffered was felt in Rome. The pope subtlety reminded the world that pain and suffering are never only local matters. His lesson was simple: I am my brother's keeper, whatever it takes.
There is another lesson to be learned, even more sublime. The issue of child abuse is not limited to Catholic schools. While we may take comfort in a certain amount of self flagellation, there is much work to done on behalf of children. The abuse of children in public schools has reached epidemic proportions and shows no signs of abating. Notwithstanding media silence on the matter, for all who claim to care about the welfare of children, the time has come to act.
Benedict XVI papacy is directly proportional to the papacy of John Paul II, in equal measure.
John Paul II ministered to the hearts and souls of millions who were lost and forgotten, shackled by generations of tyranny. That ministry touched all of us, as we watched those shackles disintegrate. Most of us do not recognize the magnitude of what we saw in those heady days that led up to the fall of the Iron Curtain. Millions followed John Paul II as he led millions from slavery to freedom, a not so subtle repeat of an earlier event and lesson in the history of mankind.
With the hearts and souls unbound, Benedict XVI is ministering to minds, now free. This is testament to a certain truth. You cannot minister to a mind if hearts and souls are enslaved. A mind set free is a mind that can learn and grow. A mind mired in oppressive tyranny will atrophy. Benedict's mission is not simply academic or intellectual. Love sets the stage and always precedes learning- and that lesson is ever present. One cannot teach if there is no real bond between teacher and student. Benedict XVI understanding of proportion, perception and reality serve to highlight and define the real meaning of 'calling.'
Faith is 'ever new,' requiring great effort, Benedict has noted. We wrote:in Mother Teresa's Blessing Of Struggle that
Doubt is indeed a blessing, perhaps the greatest of God’s gifts to His Creation, because every time we overcome that doubt and behave in a way that honors God, we have chosen to honor both Him and us. Only those that have experienced darkness can experience and appreciate light and the ability to see both the beauty and the dangers of our surroundings. In fact, if we do not acknowledge that darkness even exists, we can never see and appreciate the light.
We are supposed to struggle with faith and even tire of the struggle. It is the burden of that struggle that makes us whole and makes us complete. When we experience the doubt, the pain, and the despair of our search for God and meaning, we are not in violation of spirituality- just the opposite, really. When we are dealing with our doubts and pains, we begin to approach the final spirituality of acceptance.
The acceptance of ourselves, our limitations and insights, often comes after great pain and weeping. In a way, that weeping is a kind of window into wisdom- we are able to see ourselves for who we are and where we belong. These are cathartic moments, rare in life.
Our struggle with faith also defines our own ministry. From Mother Teresa we learn the how to minister in the physical sense. From John Paul II, we see the importance of a ministry that soothes the soul and from Benedict, we see how an intellectual ministry elevates our efforts and understanding of God, the universe and our place in that universe.
We are all different, but when it is all said and done, we are complex and individual entities. While the proportions of the spiritual ingredients that we each have may differ, we all have the same ingredients. This is Benedict's lesson. Our expression of faith is our own but we have within us the capacity to express that faith in a physical, spiritual and intellectual manner. Great things are expected of us and with the right proportions of our 'humanness,'great things are possible.
Read the The Shepherd Who Is Led.
Obama’s Real Bill Ayers Problem
The ex-Weatherman is now a radical educator with influence.23 April 2008
Barack Obama complains that he’s been unfairly attacked for a casual political and social relationship with his neighbor, former Weatherman Bill Ayers. Obama has a point. In the ultraliberal Hyde Park community where the presidential candidate first earned his political spurs, Ayers is widely regarded as a member in good standing of the city’s civic establishment, not an unrepentant domestic terrorist. But Obama and his critics are arguing about the wrong moral question. The more pressing issue is not the damage done by the Weather Underground 40 years ago, but the far greater harm inflicted on the nation’s schoolchildren by the political and educational movement in which Ayers plays a leading role today.
A Chicago native son, Ayers first went into combat with his Weatherman comrades during the “Days of Rage” in 1969, smashing storefront windows along the city’s Magnificent Mile and assaulting police officers and city officials. Chicago’s mayor at the time was the Democratic boss of bosses, Richard J. Daley. The city’s current mayor, Richard M. Daley, has employed Ayers as a teacher trainer for the public schools and consulted him on the city’s education-reform plans. Obama’s supporters can reasonably ask: If Daley fils can forgive Ayers for his past violence, why should Obama’s less consequential contacts with Ayers be a political disqualification? It’s hard to disagree. Chicago’s liberals have chosen to define deviancy down in Ayers’s case, and Obama can’t be blamed for that.
What he can be blamed for is not acknowledging that his neighbor has a political agenda that, if successful, would make it impossible to lift academic achievement for disadvantaged children. As I have shown elsewhere in City Journal, Ayers’s politics have hardly changed since his Weatherman days. He still boasts about working full-time to bring down American capitalism and imperialism. This time, however, he does it from his tenured perch as Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Instead of planting bombs in public buildings, Ayers now works to indoctrinate America’s future teachers in the revolutionary cause, urging them to pass on the lessons to their public school students.
Indeed, the education department at the University of Illinois is a hotbed for the radical education professoriate. As Ayers puts it in one of his course descriptions, prospective K–12 teachers need to “be aware of the social and moral universe we inhabit and . . . be a teacher capable of hope and struggle, outrage and action, a teacher teaching for social justice and liberation.” Ayers’s texts on the imperative of social-justice teaching are among the most popular works in the syllabi of the nation’s ed schools and teacher-training institutes. One of Ayers’s major themes is that the American public school system is nothing but a reflection of capitalist hegemony. Thus, the mission of all progressive teachers is to take back the classrooms and turn them into laboratories of revolutionary change.
Unfortunately, neither Obama nor his critics in the media seem to have a clue about Ayers’s current work and his widespread influence in the education schools. In his last debate with Hillary Clinton, Obama referred to Ayers as a “professor of English,” an error that the media then repeated. Would that Ayers were just another radical English professor. In that case, his poisonous anti-American teaching would be limited to a few hundred college students in the liberal arts. But through his indoctrination of future K–12 teachers, Ayers has been able to influence what happens in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of classrooms.
Ayers’s influence on what is taught in the nation’s public schools is likely to grow in the future. Last month, he was elected vice president for curriculum of the 25,000-member American Educational Research Association (AERA), the nation’s largest organization of education-school professors and researchers. Ayers won the election handily, and there is no doubt that his fellow education professors knew whom they were voting for. In the short biographical statement distributed to prospective voters beforehand, Ayers listed among his scholarly books Fugitive Days, an unapologetic memoir about his ten years in the Weather Underground. The book includes dramatic accounts of how he bombed the Pentagon and other public buildings.
AERA already does a great deal to advance the social-justice teaching agenda in the nation’s schools and has established a Social Justice Division with its own executive director. With Bill Ayers now part of the organization’s national leadership, you can be sure that it will encourage even more funding and support for research on how teachers can promote left-wing ideology in the nation’s classrooms—and correspondingly less support for research on such mundane subjects as the best methods for teaching underprivileged children to read. [emp- SC&A]
The next time Obama—the candidate who purports to be our next “education president”—discusses education on the campaign trail, it would be nice to hear what he thinks of his Hyde Park neighbor’s vision for turning the nation’s schools into left-wing indoctrination centers. Indeed, it’s an appropriate question for all the presidential candidates.
Sol Stern is a contributing editor of City Journal and the author of Breaking Free: Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice.
Police in the Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft.
Reports of so-called penis snatching are not uncommon in West Africa, where belief in traditional religions and witchcraft remains widespread, and where ritual killings to obtain blood or body parts still occur.
Rumours of penis theft began circulating last week in Kinshasa,'s sprawling capital of some 8 million inhabitants. They quickly dominated radio call-in shows, with listeners advised to beware of fellow passengers in communal taxis wearing gold rings...
Did Alicia Shvarts find her inspiration here?
A judge threw out charges Monday against a college art professor accused of improperly obtaining biological materials for an exhibit protesting U.S. government food policies...
Kurtz is a founding member of the Critical Art Ensemble, which has used human DNA and other biological materials in works intended to draw attention to political and social issues. His arrest drew protests from artists in several countries who called the charges an intrusion on artistic freedom.
If you could steal $11,000 worth of something, what would it be?
For one Toronto bandit over the weekend, it was broccoli.
A Toronto-area trucker -- set to deliver 30 skids of the green vegetable -- returned to his rig in the city's east end early yesterday morning to find it had vanished, said Toronto Police Const. Ray Clark...
WATERBURY, Conn. — A 53-year-old Waterbury woman has pleaded guilty to stealing more than 150 paintings reportedly after God told her the end of the world is near. Diane Catalani was arrested last year. According to court documents, Catalani told a psychologist that she hoarded what she stole to show God before the Apocalypse that there are still good people in the world. The prosecutor says it's clear that Catalani was suffering from mental illness at the time she stole the paintings. A dress-wearing man named Nanu Banu was arrested after exposing his underwear and propositioning women with a wad of cash, according to an arrest affidavit released Tuesday. Banu, 51, was accused of "disrupting the restaurant and bar because he was walking up to women, pulling off his dress (exposing his underwear) and propositioning women with a wad of money in his hand," the affidavit states. Apparently, it was a big wad of money.:
WATERBURY, Conn. — A 53-year-old Waterbury woman has pleaded guilty to stealing more than 150 paintings reportedly after God told her the end of the world is near.
Diane Catalani was arrested last year. According to court documents, Catalani told a psychologist that she hoarded what she stole to show God before the Apocalypse that there are still good people in the world.
The prosecutor says it's clear that Catalani was suffering from mental illness at the time she stole the paintings.
A dress-wearing man named Nanu Banu was arrested after exposing his underwear and propositioning women with a wad of cash, according to an arrest affidavit released Tuesday.
Banu, 51, was accused of "disrupting the restaurant and bar because he was walking up to women, pulling off his dress (exposing his underwear) and propositioning women with a wad of money in his hand," the affidavit states.
Apparently, it was a big wad of money.:
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright nontroversy? Not a problem.
"Bitter," clingy blue-collar types, flag lapel pins? He can navigate those annoyances with ease.
But come November, the Bill Ayers issue rushing up in Barack Obama's rearview mirror could be a real political problem.
A former member of the Weather Underground organization — a radical group responsible for a string of bombings in the early '70s — Ayers was a privileged kid turned domestic terrorist. Reformed and respectable, Ayers is now an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, an informal adviser to Chicago's mayor and a past contributor to an Obama campaign. In Wednesday's debate, Hillary Clinton gave a preview of what to expect from conservatives come the general election should Obama take the nomination: accusations that Obama is cozy with radical liberals. There's not much the Clinton machine can do with the accusation, seeing as President Bill Clinton commuted the prison sentences of a couple of Weather Underground members.
Conservatives will try to do considerably worse, and they'll have a lot to work with.
Back in the day, Ayers was a radicalized liberal in the worst way. Not merely because he and his comrades turned to indiscriminate violence, but because of the reason they turned. Chiefly, their paternalistic belief that blacks could not secure civil rights without their helping, explosive hand to guide them. "Black people have been fighting almost alone for years," read the first communique of the Weather Underground. "We've known that our job is to lead white kids into armed revolution."
Going metaphorically arm-in-arm with Dr. King — as innumerable liberal-minded folks of all persuasions did — was not enough for the Weather Underground. They had to blow stuff up. And they did it without regard for the fact that they were essentially spitting on the memory of a man who was committed to nonviolence. Yes, they were partially radicalized by the killing of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton at the hands of the Chicago police. But many vented their very righteous anger without lighting fuses. But many, also, didn't fancy themselves modern John Browns leading otherwise helpless blacks to freedom.
The Weather Underground claimed to want to avoid human suffering. But you can't express yourself with explosives without somebody getting hurt. And the people who got hurt were three of its members, blown up in an accident so tragic it's actually empty of irony.
But I'm sure at the time the Weather Underground figured they were doing something noble.
And I'm sure Ted Kaczynski figured he was doing the same.
The issue, though, isn't what Ayers thought then; it's what he thinks now.
Read Ayers' memoir, Fugitive Days, which was published — in actual horrific irony — on Sept. 10, 2001. Though I have to admit it's pretty well written, it's filled with more paternalism ("A squad of cops in Cleveland had dragged Black men from a motel and shot them down in cold blood, and now we would, I thought, even the score.") and romanticism of what were ultimately terrorist acts. Ayers was also quoted in 2001 saying that he has no regrets for his past actions, but rather he feels that "we didn't do enough." Take a gander at his Web site and see if you find contrition or self-aggrandizement.
What someone did 40 years ago — within reason — should not damn that person forever. But that's assuming offending individuals pay their debt to society and repent. Ayers has done neither.
I genuinely hope Obama's got as much distance as humanly possible between himself and Ayers, and that Ayers is just, as Obama said in the debate, "a guy who lives in my neighborhood."
From the When You Can't Beat 'Em, Screw 'Em Department:
According to Alexander Cockburn at The First Post, the gates of scandal are about to open up on John McCain. He notes that while Hillary will soldier on, John McCain's past is catching up with him. First come the usual 'McCain was a collaborator' charges (which no really takes seriously, not even the opposing candidates most fervent supporters), followed by the mysterious charges of a sex scandal just about to be unleashed:
Leftist political 'analysts.' The gift that keeps on giving.
McCain gets soft-treatment from the claque on his press bus, but the going could rapidly get rough for him. Just as John Kerry got whacked for false claims about his war record in 2004, McCain is already on the receiving end of charges (most recently on the CounterPunch website and newsletter I coedit) that as a POW 'hero' McCain collaborated with his captors for three years and was on Vietnamese radio so often he was tagged as 'the PW Songbird'.
Meanwhile Cliff Schecter, author of The Real McCain says an AP reporter "recounted to me seeing John McCain wander off into the red-light district of Hanoi in 1996 when he was there to normalise relations with the Vietnamese", and that "a few reporters told me the McCains don't really live together anymore, and that until the campaign Cindy McCain spent much of her time in San Diego with their daughter, because her husband was just not Johnny-on-the-spot anymore."
From the Minority Report:
I don't know whether conspiracy is the right word although these relationships might fit the dictionary meaning of the word. In any case this time line is interesting
It is very interesting. By choice of chance, Obama is never too far from the 'most interesting.'
Mark Steyn and James Lileks have reacted on tonight's show to the 2007 audio of Ayers and Dohrn dug up by Guy Benson. Much should be written about it and what it tells us about Senator Obama, but whether the MSM even notices remains to be seen.
A caller from North Carolina, Steve, noted the obvious: We know what Dohrn and Ayers were thinking about the U.S. in 2007. We know that they know Obama well, and have "vetted" him. And we know they supported him from 1995 forward.
UPDATE: Powerline's John Hinderacker begins the hard-look at "The Friends of Barack Obama."
Keep in mind a young radio producer --Guy Benson of WYLL's The Sandy Rios Show-- found audio that no one else in all of the MSM found to launch this story. What else will we be discovering about Barack Obama's friends, and about the candidate?
Mr. Obama's apparent inability to confront, forthrightly, the pastor's poisonous pronouncements and his own relationship with him is, of course, the cause of all the continuing questions on the subject. It had not been in him, for instance, to say publicly that for a pastor to have preached that the U.S. government had embarked on a project to inject blacks with AIDS was an outrage on truth and decency. He delivered a celebrated speech on race, one generally hailed as a masterwork, that was supposed to have explained it all. It was a work masterly, above all, in its evasiveness. Even its admirers, prepared to swallow his repeated resort to descriptions like "controversial" for the pastor's hate-filled rants, couldn't quite give Sen. Obama a pass when it came to his beloved white grandmother, or to the not so beloved Geraldine Ferraro, both of whom he suggested were racists in their own right.
These issues – the unanswered, the suspect – which outraged press partisans have for days attempted to dismiss as trivia and gossip, largely forgotten by the public, are unlikely to be forgotten, either today or in the general election, nor are they trivial. This, Messrs. Gibson and Stephanopoulos clearly understood when they chose their questions. Mr. Obama's answers told far more than he or his managers wished.
Offered a chance to explain the meaning of his remarks about the reasons people living in small towns cling to guns and religion, he went on to repeat them all over again in different words. What there was in those remarks, what attitudes shown, that had offended people, he had still not grasped. In short, what he had said that day he'd meant to say. "What you are, picks its way," as Walt Whitman told us.
The way has been a long one for the candidates, and what they are is, indeed, picking its way on the campaign trail and during events like that instructive debate. About which, we now learn, there is to be a protest campaign against ABC and the moderators, mounted by assorted journalists and bloggers.
We are at the beginning of a contest likely to repeat itself through November: between that part of the press prepared to put hard questions equally, and all the rest, including those who'll mount the barricades when their candidate is threatened with discomfiture. Let the wars begin.
Barack Obama would have you believe that he is a 'new' kind of politician, when in fact, he is nothing more than yet another Cook County political hack. The only difference between Obama and those Daley machine appointees that preceded him is his race.
The Chicago Democrat machine hoped that Obama's race and black base of support would camouflage his political origins. When it is all said and done, Barack Obama is more of the same of what Cook County has produced for generations.No wonder the media is playing along.
It is amazing how often this primary season has prompted me to haul out a spyglass to peer back into my life. A lot of the memories are soft focus now, a little more so with each passing year; but the time period from the early 60's to the end of the 70's is when I was young. And I hold the recollections of this time to be dear, shared only with intimates. I have never written about them although I am a fierce critic of those who do.
The tale of the 60's and 70's has never been told to my satisfaction probably because I keep seeking my story, and it is never there. I was more political than a flower child. Free love and drugs were ok, if that was your thing, and I smoked grass, especially when I went dancing; but to me this aspect of the era was more incidental than substantial. Love-ins, flower power, bell bottoms and tambourines were the trappings. The meat of the era was Political and no song summed it up better than "Something Happening Here" by Buffalo Springfield:There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, now, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
The song captures an entire gestalt, the mindset of a generation not only committed to ending a war of intervention, but also determined to make the world into a better, safer, more humane place. One fit for children and animals, which was a slogan one often saw on posters. But we were not self conscious about it. People rarely wrote things down. No one imagined how this time in our lives would become almost mythological. We all believed the way it was is the way it would always be. I didn't write much either. In those days I was just a face in the crowd. I listened, clapped, carried signs, and cheered others. This was fine with me. I didn't aspire to more of a role. The working class part of me remained a little withheld. It took a lot for me to break the law; so many others were way ahead of me. And yet it seems to me now, that I was there, at so many of the Big Moments.
The crucial question to me is similar to the quesiton I have about Wright, and it goes to the issue of his judgment. I was 23. Obama is twice my age, and these associations are recent. For me they have set off an alarm. Every person who loves this country and who hates injustice, sooner or later, must come to terms with how he or she will seek change. Obama, has to answer for his associates. He cannot dodge the issue by saying they are 'harmless.' These people are not innocent. And Obama's association with Wright and Ayers is haunted by the cries of the ordinary and everyday people who have been killed by prejudice and by bombs all over this precious and vulnerable world.
In 1963 during the Cuban Missile crises I was a 17 year-old freshman at Berkeley terrified I would never get to have sex before we were vaporized by a Russian bomb. I had already joined SLATE, which many now consider to be the beginning of the New Left and the Grandaddy of all the student movements that would follow on. The next year some of my friends in SLATE would help to found the Free Speech Movement, but I had already have moved on.
In those days I checked in and out of colleges the way some people check in and out of motels. Scholarships always appeared. Middle class teachers seemed to view me as the working class kid `with all the potential,' and remaking me in their image was a project they enjoyed. At USC, where I had a journalism scholarship, I came close to graduating until Barbara Meyerhoff, the anthropologist who became famous but whose acclaim had not yet arrived, 'adored' my final project. This was a two hour reel-to-reel tape of carefully selected songs to communicate our `revolution.' She asked me to write a paper with her that would accompany the tape and which we would present at an international gathering of anthropologist's. The music had to speak for itself I declared. So I declined. Myerhoff alternately cajoled and ranted, but I remained adamant because the essence of the whole project was: No Words.
My generation didn't trust words at all. Words were the way people lied and exploited other people. What we trusted was music. It was our salvation, our language, and our guided missile launched at the brain of the war machine. From Janis Joplin to Marvin Gay; from Donovan to the Rolling Stones; from the Platters to Simon & Garfunkle; from Joan Baez to Jimi Hendrix, from the Beatles to Pete Seeger, we gamboled inside the greatest explosion of popular music styles than at any other time in American history.
The altercation with Myerhoff unnerved me and true to my MO in those years, I left school to seek fame and fortune back east. Myerhoff eventually came around and gave me a notebook for my trip into `who I would become.' I threw it in the passenger seat, slipped behind the wheel of my blue VW bug, and headed into the future with the radio on high and all my failures still to come.
I arrived in Manhattan in time for the March 7, 1970 townhouse explosion in Greenwich Village which killed 3 weather underground members who were preparing a bomb to be set off at a noncommissioned officers' dance at fort Dix, New Jersey. The bomb, a makeshift anti-personnel weapon studded with roofing nails, exploded prematurely killing Theodore Gold, Diana Oughton, and Terry Robbins. Weather Underground members Kathy Boudin and Cathlyn Wilkerson, upstairs at the time of the blast, were helped by rescue workers and then disappeared before they could be questioned. William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn also disappeared. The Townhouse Explosion on 11th St. became one of my first feature stories for the Associated Press.
A few months later I wrote the headlines that appeared on the AP sign that went around the top of a building in Time Square. Late in the day on Monday, May 4 that sign announced: Ohio National Guard Memebers Murder Four Kent State Students. A huge crowd gathered and police feared a riot; so they called us to take down the sign. I refused. This became my first taste of the power that comes with authority, and what began as a taste became a meal when on Tuesday the AP not only backed me up, but lauded my judgment.
Still, I left the AP some months later after I participated in a Red Stockings consciousness-raising group and became a full time activist in the women's movement. After waving goodbye to the upscale West Village, I moved to the East Village where I ate at Leshkos and hung out with radicals. Again I was a nobody. A cipher really. But I now embraced feminism with a passion I had until then only given to the antiwar movement. My apartment on E. 6th St, a railroad flat and a 5th floor walkup, was across from the first gay rights office in Manhattan and barely a block from the old Fillmore East.
And this is when the Weather Underground entered my own personal space, impacting me outwardly as well as reverberating internally, so that I finally decided where I stood on the issue of violence and civil disobedience. You could not be a radical in that time without confronting violence: the use of force by the government, `violent action' by our side, the sds who immolated a dog with napalm, gay kids kicked and mauled by police, protestors of all kinds beaten with nightsticks and worse, not to mention Vietnam and My Lai. As early as Los Angeles, when I worked for the City News Service, we carried a story saying that no one had been seriously hurt in the Century City anti-war demonstrations, when our own reporter was in the hospital, perhaps paralyzed from injury to his spinal cord after the police shoved him and he fell on a sprinkler head.
Violence was everywhere. The best leaders of my generation disappeared in blood drenched assassinations. Nightsticks and police dogs and bombs dotted the south like ornaments on some macabre tree where hate and prejudice replaced the normal limbs of life. A woman was murdered and the police questioned me and my friends. We knew it was her boyfriend, but they didn't believe us.
How far were you prepared to go? We talked about it All the time. And even in sleep violence prevailed. I would soon move into a woman's collective in Washington DC, and after that I often dreamed that men with long handled axes, who could slip under doors and slide along walls, chased me with red tongues lolling like mad dogs announcing their intention to hack me into pieces for moving in with a `bunch of women.'
It was because of the collective we named Amazing Grace that I met some Weather Underground people, and then my phone was tapped by the feds. I was one of 4 from New York invited to join this collective, which was to be housed in Washington DC. In the planning stages we drove down to DC on a Friday night only to find our place to stay had evaporated. So someone, a friend of a friend of the DC women, fixed us up at another `house.'
I didn't like the looks of the place from the second I saw it. Weeds grew everywhere, the blinds were all down, inside there was only a hodge podge of furniture; and it was like no one actually lived there. Everything was makeshift. The kitchen smelled and the counters appeared overrun by red spaghetti splashes and dried milk stains. Some cereal boxes, one canted sideways decorated the kitchen table. The faces of the people I met were pinched and hard. They didn't smile. A kind of hostile paranoia invaded the place. I never got the story straight, but in the middle of the night we were awakened and told to get out fast. The police were going to raid the house because Weather Underground people were there now or had been there right before us.
As we were rushing out to our car, a woman from the `house' whispered to me, 'Be careful. The pigs will nail you. They are taking everyone down.' I was so furious I couldn't speak. We were threats to society now. And you couldn't just go and say, "Hey, policeman, sir; this is all a big mistake.'
And that's when what I felt about violence crystallized. Sure, I was scared. But the fear did not arise out of some imagined harm. I was scared that I would be seen as someone I was not. Someone who could kill innocents. And I couldn't. I was a lot more Ghandi than terrorist. I didn't know that word then, but I didn't have to know the word to understand the behavior. These people hated. They killed. And they did it because they believed in themselves above all others. I would place my commitment to peace and to liberation alongside anyone's in those days, but I would not kill to make the world more like I believed it should be.
Timothy Noah in Slate Aug22, 2001 wrote:The weather underground was full of rich kids who thought they knew best. Who wanted to kill in order to stop killing. To many on the left they were heroes, I thought they were jackals. And Lewis Ayers exemplified the worst when on 9/11, 2001, in an interview for his book " Fugitive" he said in the NY times:
I don't regret setting bombs; I feel we didn't do enough.
...Much of what Ayers self-interestedly leaves out of his book is more personally embarrassing than illegal. Ayers takes care not to dwell on his own Establishment credentials. (His father was chairman of the energy company Commonwealth Edison, a fact Ayers conveys only by writing, "My dad worked for Edison.") Ayers omits any discussion of his famous 1970 statement, "Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents, that's where it's really at." He also omits any discussion of his wife Bernardine Dohrn's famous reaction to the Manson killings, as conveyed by journalist Peter Collier: "Dig it. First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they even shoved a fork into a victim's stomach! Wild!" (In a 1993 Chicago Magazine profile, Dohrn claimed, implausibly, that she'd been trying to convey that "Americans love to read about violence.") Nor does he address fellow radical Jane Alpert's charge that Ayers was "notorious for his callous treatment and abandonment of Diana Oughton before her death and for his generally fickle and high-handed treatment of women" (though Ayers does manage to get across the message, to those few who haven't heard it, that the late 1960s and early 1970s were a golden age for getting laid).
I didn't last in the DC collective long. Rich kids who wanted to play poor infuriated me. I returned to my apartment to find out my phone was tapped and that the police had been by. The phone tap, accompanied by clicking sounds and by guys who would occasionally snicker at some conversations intended to be private, lasted for years. I got used to it. And eventually people would stop by to hear what a real tap sounded like. It became a giggle.
And 'Grandma,' an older Ukrainian lady of indeterminate age with an expanding waistline and grey hair who daily sat on the front stoop of our building with her Yuncheck, a fiercesome German shepherd, turned out to be my friend. 'Grandma' guarded the building. There is no other way to describe it. No one got in our out without first getting by Grandma and Yunchek. My friends and I would laugh how if the police ever came they would have a hard time with Grandma. I never saw this as anything but a joke. And then the police did come.
"I tell them notink," she announced grabbing my arm as I walked up the stairs. It took awhile for me to understand from her broken English that the police had actually come looking for me. When I asked her to describe them she said, "Men in suits with no smiles. They want you." I stayed with friends for a few days. And then mustered the courage to go home. They never came for me again.
I do not understand how William Ayers wound up teaching at a University, holding forth on how he didn't do anything wrong. I can understand people in succeeding generations wanting to talk to the real deal. But I cannot understand lauding a man who does not regret setting bombs. I believe Weather Underground takes responsibility for over 200 bombings nationwide. I also cannot understand the attitude of a man who wants to be President of all the people of this country associating with Ayers. Let's not debate the association. It is well documented and it goes beyond 'we met a few times.'