Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Anger and Newtown

I don’t know what to say about the Newtown shooting.  As someone interested in peace, nonviolence, language, and their interconnectedness, I think there’s a lot to be said. But coming up with what that might be is another thing altogether.

Most viscerally, I just find myself angry. Not so much at the predictable parade of conmen, Pharisees, and paranoids who tell us that we need more guns or God or (preferably) both in schools to make things right. They’re just wind-up toys doing what they do.  (I will say, in passing, that I think Sacha Baron Cohen has topped himself with his latest character “Representative Louie Gomert, Republican of Texas,” a masterstroke of satirical social commentary.)

Evolution of a satirist?

I’m not even mad at the shooter. Maybe I should be, but I’m not.  He’s beyond anger at this point, and clearly was disturbed to a degree we cannot fathom.

I do get frustrated with those who I think should know better.  The mom with whom I am (or was) “friends” on Facebook who approvingly reposts a screed about how none of this would happen if parents would just “beat the s*** out of weird withdrawn ungrateful f**ks” like they did back in the good ol’ days.  The parents who think they are protecting their family by bringing guns into their house when statistics show that, regardless of type of gun or storage, a gun is 43 times more likely to kill someone in the house than any intruder.  Those who in arguing for this or that approach to understanding what happened insist on using sloppy thinking, relying on false dilemmas and strawmen.  

But most of all, I get angry at myself.  Angry for being angry.  Angry for gleefully unfriending authors of idiotic posts on Facebook.  Angry at the satisfaction I get in giving the rhetorical back of my hand to nincompoops online with their half-baked theology or social policy.  Angry for allowing myself to become misanthropic.  Angry for allowing myself the grim pleasure of seeing my misanthropy confirmed by the unending parade of ignorance and hate available to us 24/7 through the magic of cable news, talk radio, and the interwebs.  Angry for not fully putting to use the skills I’ve learned from reading folks like Thich Nhat Hanh, Johan Galtung, Marshall Rosenberg, and many others who have helped me begin cobbling together way of thinking about what truly peaceful/nonviolent thinking and communication might look like and be practiced.

Monday, December 10, 2012


 [The following is a piece I wrote for comedian Jen Kirkman's project, "MA'AM" (Men Against Assholes and Misogyny).  Check it out here.

A student at the school I teach at once said of a colleague of mine, “Everyone says Ms. Smith is a feminist, but I think she’s actually really nice.”

Fortunately, I grew up in an atmosphere where feminism wasn’t a dirty word, synonymous with “raging bitch on wheels.”  However, in college, I do remember feeling a bit intimidated by feminism.  I mistakenly thought that feminist thinking said that as a male, I was a bad person.  I thought it meant that my feelings were not important because I was male.  I thought it meant that if I thought of a woman as sexy or desirable, I was doing something wrong.  I thought it meant that it was perfectly fine for me to be seen as an act of misogynistic violence waiting to happen—to be presumed guilty or at least under suspicion.

Obviously, for someone who just wanted to be liked, these feelings hurt me and made me wary of identifying as a feminist.  But as I got older, I recognized that my feelings were based on misperceptions.  The sort of cartoonish, man-hating feminism was a vulgar distortion of what feminism was actually about.  

In the spirit of sharing what I’ve gleaned, here are a few common misconceptions about feminism, and the actual reality, as I now understand it. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Enemies are often allies beneath the skin.

In the wake of the recent murder of Americans in Libya, the demonstrations in Cairo, and the growing unrest in other Islamic countries, the truth of this is becoming clear.

As I write, there doubts have emerged about links betweenthe killings in Libya and the “film” that has made the rounds on the web thatinsults Islam.  The events in Cairo seem a direct response to it, as do the spreading demonstrations.

More revolting: the makers of the film may have intended to invoke this reaction. 

Why? One can only speculate, but speculation isn’t hard in this case: the image of mobs of Muslims attacking U.S. citizens and property plays into the image of Islam as a religion of intolerance and hate.  Rather than the film saying anything directly, it invokes a response that is far more effective in making the case than the film itself.

So, radical Christians vs. radical Islamicists, right?
The more I think about it, the less I think that’s the way we should see it.