politics


… is the expurgated book. – Walt Whitman

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By the time I was five I could read and write in two languages. Reading was second only to breathing. There was never a limit to what I could find out, so long as I kept reading. Throughout elementary school, I was constantly getting into trouble with teachers and with my parents for reading at inappropriate times and for preferring to read than doing any homework. If allowed, I’d read rather than play with my friends or even eat. I would get so lost in whatever worlds in the pages that everything else ceased to exist.

I developed fascinations with certain subjects and would spend weeks reading only about those topics. I became obsessed with slavery and with the Civil War, then with WWII and with the Holocaust. I was completely fascinated by Ancient Egypt and then Rome. I couldn’t get enough of the Middle Ages and of Royal genealogy. I researched and read volumes about dynasties from the Romanovs to the Plantagenets. Ancient female figures and monarchs became my heroines. I would dream of being Aspasia or Cleopatra or Eleanor of Aquataine and in desiring to be like them I read everything I could about them, which sometimes included very obscure and mature literature.

My teachers both adored and detested my presence in their classes. I was enthusiastic and incredibly inquisitive but also indignantly precocious. Too often I would question the veracity of their information or often times simply inform them that they were wrong. And on many occasions, they were. No matter what subject we learned about in school, I would inevitably go home and read far and beyond what was in the curriculum, if it was of interest to me, and most things were.
My standardized test scores were through the roof. In the third grade, at age seven, I was admitted to a Gifted Children’s program. At ten, my vocabulary and reading comprehension were those of a college student’s.

But not because I was extraordinarily privileged in the quality of my education.
It was simply the result of being given the freedom to educate myself. My parents didn’t own a TV until I was nearly six years old, but we did have a two room library. When we lived in Central America, my mother made sure to speak with and read to us in English and when we moved to the states, she did her best to continue to do so in Spanish.

If I had a question about something, I was encouraged to look it up. And in the days before ubiquitious internet, we would pack up and head to the library. I was frequently irked by the 30 book limit upon my child library card. See, we could only go to the library once every two weeks. How was I to survive that long with only 30 books to read? The library at school was an absolute joke, as far as I was concerned. We traveled very frequently but I survived and actually looked forward to the many international flights and several cross country road trips we took because all I ever wanted to do was dream and read.

There was never a single moment that my parents denied me my right to read. Not on the basis of content, at least. On certain occasions when I really misbehaved I would get punished not by getting grounded from television but by having whatever book I was reading, temporarily taken away. It would get returned only upon completion of whatever chores or homework it was that I had been avoiding due to said book. As far as what I read, however, my parents never placed limits. At ten, when my fascination with the Holocaust reached it’s peak, my mother refused to allow me to rent Schindler’s List and I was livid. But it was a movie. I could read the book, if I wanted, but the movie was off limits.

I remember one particular instance when I was fifteen. At twelve, my younger brother had been turned on to the subject of satanic cults and came home from school filled with questions regarding the matter. My mother very calmly told him that she didn’t know much about the subject however she was sure they could find plenty of information at the library. And they did. It was less than a month before my brother lost interest, much to my mothers relief.

At ten, at the height of the Lewinsky/Clinton scandal, I was a habitual reader of every morning’s newspaper. My mother was not at all pleased to have to explain all about oral sex and the impeachment process to her sixth grader, however I was never forbidden to read about the sordid and horrible things going on in the world. And if I ever needed to discuss or have things clarified, my parents were very willing to help.

Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of toys, especially not by American standards. But we always had a steady stream of books coming to our way. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. What I lacked in dolls and videos, I more than made up for with words and dreams. I remember being so sad, when at eight my floor to ceiling bookshelf got so filled that I had to move some of my personal collections to a different shelf in another room of the house. I had no idea how truly fortunate I was to have such a dilemma.

See, my parents believe, as do I, that the only true evil in this world, is ignorance. Reading is the most important means of educating yourself. Without the freedom to read and learn at will, we have nothing except what other people tell us. The only way to form an opinion is to be educated on it. They also knew that denying us information could only bring about conflict.

There are a lot of things I dislike about how my parents raised us, but the way that they shared with us their appreciation and love for books is something I will always be thankful for.

Which is why it cuts me the core and really just pisses me off to read about yet another censorship story.

And for what? Because of the word “scrotum”?
Are you kidding me?

I won’t even go into the ethics and absolute immorality that is book censorship, because that is a whole other can of worms that I’m just too tired to go into.

But scrotum?
Seriously?

For the love of god. It’s a body part. One which 50% of the population is in posession of. I could understand if the word were something like copulation or ejaculation, as those are words much more indicative of something too mature for small children. But scrotum? A noun. A simple little noun. Just a run-of-the-mill body part is creating this uproar? What exactly is so threatening about this word? I don’t get it. A scrotum is just as much a part of the male anatomy as penis or testicles and most boys are well aware of what those two words mean. I just fail to see how a child reading or hearing this word could possibly be upsetting. What is it, exactly, about our sexual organs that make people so jumpy? These are children. They have bodies too. How is knowing the correct term for a body part going to negatively affect them at all, unless they are taught that it is something to be ashamed of or hidden? A scrotum alone is not dangerous or volatile in any way. Hiding the word away isn’t going to hide away it’s existence from the 3 Billion people that possess it. All boys, by the age of two are well aware of their scrotums, even if they don’t know what they’re called. What is denying them a word going to accomplish? What can possibly be accomplished by causing an uproar and trying hide such a basic and integral bodypart?

The problem is that people equate knowledge with immorality. It’s the age old apple in eden complex. Knowing and understanding their bodies isn’t going to instigate a sudden onset of hyper-sexualization in children. If anything, teaching them the scientific terms from an early age, could only improve their future sexual health as they will already be familiar with the concepts once they are old enough to be taught in greater detail. There are many things in this world that children need protecting from, but the knowledge of their own bodies is not one of them.

What kind of ridiculous, puritanical world are we living in where people will go to such astonishing lengths in order to do what? Delay in the inevitable? I mean, really. There are just so many other issues, much more worthy of distress than this word.
Knowledge, in and of itself, is never a dangerous thing. It is only the absence of knowledge that gets us all into trouble.

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I love my cousin Sarah. Tomorrow is her 25th birthday. She has a total of four service days left before she is out of active service in the army. She already served in Afghanistan for a year and I’ve been holding my breath hoping that they wouldn’t send her to Iraq. Technically, they can send her ass over there at any time in the next four years but I’m really hoping that’s not the case. Four days. Four days and she’s free, so to speak.

I love Sarah. Growing up I absolutely idolized her. She was and still is, my closest cousin on my mother’s side of the family. She’s hilarious and goofy and full of spunk. I love her. Historically speaking, she comes from a pretty long line of soldiers. We’re not a military family by any means but my Grandmother’s side of the family has been fighting in American wars since the time of the pilgrims. (Seriously. Her ancestors were some of the original Presbyterian settlers.) My ancestors fought in the Civil War, both World Wars and more recently my uncle fought in the first Gulf War. Just about each generation has had at least one member of the military. But I never, not in a million years, would have thought that Sarah, of all my cousins, would join the army. I’m pretty sure if someone had told me beforehand that she was going to, I would have called the cops to report some serious crack abuse. She’s more than just not the type. She’s the type flipped on its axis and covered in spray paint.

Her parents are wealthy, upper middle class folks who gave her a great upbrining and a private education. It’s not like she was fresh out highschool either. She was halfway through her Junior year of college when she joined. Besides that, though, she’s a total rebel. I’m talking piercings, tattoos, dyed hair (shaved head at one point.) She was a total free spirit, so for her to willingly sign over her life to the ultimate authoritative and disciplinary institution ever? Well that was just ridiculous. I truly didn’t believe it when I heard it, it was just that preposterous.

She came out to our family shortly after she signed up. (Ironic, I know.) Her right wing, Christian parents flipped out. It was a quite a one-two punch for them. I couldn’t have cared less and told her as much. I don’t give a flying fuck whom she (or anyone) loves or makes love to. It makes no difference to me either way. I love her no matter what and would forgive her almost anything. Almost

It’s taken four years but I’m finally to the point where I can see her as my cousin, instead of just as a soldier. I’m relieved to no end that she’s getting out. That after four years I won’t have to worry about her being killed. That she’ll be able to go on with her life. I love her so much. But no matter what, I will never be able to forgive her.

It’s horrible, I know but as much as I love her and enjoy spending time with her, there is a part of me that will always view her as an enemy. It’s not just that she joined forces with the man, she joined forces with everything that I loathe and despise in the world. She didn’t just sign a contract with the devil. To me, this was giving him a strip tease and fucking him as well.

My mom has this bumper sticker on her Toyota Prius. She got it while Sarah was in Afghanistan. My mom and I tend to have very similar opinions regarding politics except for that. See, I don’t support our troops.

Yeah, I said it.

I don’t support the war in Iraq and I don’t think that blindly supporting the the troops when they are fighting an illegal and unjust war makes an iota of sense. They are not protecting our rights or defending our freedom because our rights and freedoms have only ever been threatened by the very people who have sent them over there in the first place. No, it’s not their fault that they have been ordered there by an oil hungry maniac but they did choose their professions. They chose to be soldiers. And as far as I’m concerned there is nothing noble about being a professional killer. I can forgive just about anything, but not that.

Not that.

But I’m glad she’s almost out and that she’s safe and relatively unscathed.

I love her.

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Does anybody else think it’s rather fucked up ironic that Saddam was executed for shit he did while he was our ally?
Wouldn’t that make Reagan equally responsible for those deaths considering he encouraged enabled the killings when he dished out billions of American tax dollars funded Saddam’s military, funneled intelligence information and generously gifted him with standard and biological weapons back in the 80’s?

No?

I guess I forgot that basic, linear logic just doesn’t have a place in American politics.

I know this isn’t a political blog but it’s my blog and I just wanted to give a shout-out to the amazing students at Columbia. How fantastic are they? I can only hope that my moonbeams will someday grow up to be just as brave and passionate about human life and social justice.