Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Re-Investing in Dayton (or your city, too)

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Both today's letter to the editor and the longer expanded version hint strongly at Keynesian economics. Unfortunately, "Keynesian economics" is as broad a term as "liberal" or "conservative", and covers a *lot* of ground. So, what exactly do *I* mean by it? Let me begin by talking about some common threads or themes that fall under this umbrella.

One common thread in all Keynesian thought is that deliberate action can influence the business cycle - and can do so with a positive result. This isn't as self-evident as it might sound; real world problems such as time and information lag play heavily into the ability of anyone (but usually, Keynesians mean government) to influence the economy. Remember the stimulus checks - debated in early 2008, but not arriving until months later? That's *fast* for government. Then there's the lag in getting the information - even "early" economic data is usually months out of date, and frequently gets significantly changed with revisions afterward. All these things make government (or any) deliberate attempt to alter the business cycle problematic at best.

A second common thread is that the "positive result" these actions should take is a leveling one, not a maximizing one. For example, a government might spend a lot during a depression to reverse it, and then tax a lot during a boom to pay it back. Theoretically, you should end up with a generally increasing growth rate, with the "valleys" filled and the "peaks" leveled. No booms - but no busts, either. The failing here is human, not logistical. We are perfectly capable of following this prescription, but simply fail to do so.

These two threads mean that Keynesians tend to be both sustainable (especially when compared to the slash-and-burn of free market capitalists) and concerned about something other than the bottom line. Which accurately reflects something about the great economist himself; he viewed capitalism as a means to an end, not an end in itself. Or to put it in slightly more modern (and accepted) terms: He believed in working to live, not living to work.

This leads us back to today’s letter. How the hell could an area already hit by economic problems further invest money in its population? Keynesian principles show a way. Our current situation and expectations (do not ever forget expectations in economics!) are that this area will do poorly. By borrowing money to invest in people who live here, it is investing in ourselves, making our likelihood of profitability much higher in the future.

If you are like me (or most people) you either blew your stimulus check on bills or basic items. At that point (unless you were paying off a loan), that stimulus check became a handout from your point of view. It didn't do a single thing to help you in the long run; you were simply handed a fish. Much like the justification for capitalism, this sort of thing only makes sense if it increases your abilities permanently. That is, if it teaches you to fish.

Investing in our population's education is a sound bet, historically. It worked for Germany in the 19th century, the US in the early 20th, India in the late 20th, and China now. It is time for our regional leaders to realize that nobody's going to do it for us - that we must do it for ourselves. Whether through Open University styled initiatives, or simply funding their way through school, we must take care of our own - because it's obvious the free market will not.

Once these benefits bear fruit, we must repay ourselves. Whether through tax incremental financing or other automatic mechanisms, we can then have a balanced budget in the long run, along with a much smoother business cycle.

Ultimately, this kind of economics is the economics of hope. Not the false hope that “the market will fix everything”. Instead, this is a hope grounded in the muscles, minds, and will of the people we live and work with.

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Exam - A 100 Word Story

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Here's another 100 Word Story. This week's theme: Exam. Be sure to vote for this one - or any other favorites you might have - at You can hear me reading the story here (MP3 format).

She collects the fee from the nightstand. He rubs his ring finger, counting ribs as her shirt slides over them.

"I gotta run," she says. "I have a exam in biology to study for."

"I had an exam at the hospital yesterday," he blurts.

She giggles. "What grade did you get?"

He remembers the scan full of unexpected metastatic dots.

"They don't give grades." He hopes his smile seems natural.

After she leaves, he rolls upright, lights a cigarette - why stop now? - and stares at the door. He opens the nightstand drawer, removes the book, and desperately begins to cram.

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Who knows better?

There is a downside to the concept of listening to everyone - sometimes the professionals know better.

It is fashionable to bash "professionals" for thinking they know better than everyone else. It is fashionable *because*, in many instances, those professionals don't bother to pay attention to the people they are serving. Nadinne Cruz, the keynote speaker at the 2008 Quest for Community conference has done it (and spoke passionately about it), the professional class in West-by-God has done it, and I have done it as well. It's a perfectly human failing.

The problem is, sometimes the professionals really *do* have a better idea of what is going on. I've had to argue to women that they *are* being oppressed, even as they tell me they aren't (and usually while they're asking for a "strong man" to help them or are bemoaning how "fat" they are) . I have customers bemoan the loss of a local fast-food restaurant chain, even though the replacements are very arguably a better value dollar for calorie. It's strange, but fairly commonplace, for people to not realize (or choose) what the best and most optimal outcome for them is.

As an aside - I don't mean "most optimal" in any kind of elitist economic sense, I mean in the terms they themselves use. For example, when I choose to have extra pizza despite my bemoaning my waistline. (I do love me some bemoaning.)

I am talking about this: People who routinely state goals and desires - and then act in ways contrary to them

That is often due to being embedded in the system. We take for granted the limitations and social constructs around us. Who to marry, who to talk to, date, hire, employ, buy from. All of these are merely constructs and arbitrary rules - but they are also *us* as well. We as individuals have been shaped (literally, since brains are shaped by cognition) by these rules.

Or in other words, is that preference for princesses and ballerinas genuine, a relic of the patriarchy's oppression, or some twisted amalgam of both?

Ultimately, we all have to listen to each other. Academics and professionals to laypeople, laypeople to professionals. Ben Franklin had a good idea over 200 years ago, and seem to have forgotten it since:

"We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."


Connecting dots

Feeling powerless leads to expensive purchases | Science Blog
Feeling powerless can trigger strong desires to purchase products that convey high status, according to new research in the Journal of Consumer Research.

In a study that may explain why so many Americans who are deeply in debt still spend beyond their means, authors Derek D. Rucker and Adam D. Galinsky (both Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University) found that research subjects who were asked to recall times when someone else had power over them were willing to pay higher prices for status-symbol items.
Is it just me, or is this a great explanation for the stereotype of housebound, male-dominated women supposedly buying a lot of stuff?


Aren't you creative too?

There is a pernicious (dammit, I *will* say pernicious as much as I want!) assumption that goes along with any discussion of the creative class. It's the assumption that it only applies to [insert group here].

It is understandable where that assumption comes from. Media sources often misreport report Dr. Florida's work as claiming that "success depends on gays", when it doesn't actually say that at all. Professional types - who see themselves as the heirs to the creative class throne - take this as a mandate to dictate their wills to the rest of us. And so the misunderstanding gains legitimacy, and instead of fighting for new innovation we have to fight against a professional class that doesn't listen to real folks - and yet another social innovation goes awry.

I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Florida speak at Wright State a while back. While impressed, I was most struck by two things he said that often get overlooked:

  1. It isn't the presence of gays that makes a city successful - it's the atmosphere of general tolerance that *allows* gays and artists to exist that promotes success. (Or in other words, a city where gays were accepted but still had a good amount of racism would be just as bad. This article unwittingly provides evidence of this by citing NOLA, while tilting at the misreported straw man.)
  2. Everyone is part of the creative class. He used the illustration of an employee at a eyeglass plant who saw ways they could do things better, even though the employee wasn't a manager or proclaimed efficiency expert.
These two things are tied together. Without tolerance, ideas from the bottom rungs (or worse, from social outcasts) are discarded and left by the wayside.

The whole concept of the "creative class" leading towards economic success should be clear: Without tolerance, you have a limited set of like-minded brains with like-minded solutions. When those solutions don't work anymore, when groupthink kicks in, your economy fails.

It is ironic that neo cons like GWB keep talking about ownership societies (mind you, they're talking about "ownership" without representation...). A society where everyone is a true stakeholder is one where everyone also has a say. That kind of ownership is a direct lead-in to the creative class, and economic prosperity.

A while back I wrote a paper on the uses of co-operatives in a capitalistic society. As I did my research, it seemed that cooperatives based on ideological motives (i.e. "We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune") have all failed. However, co-ops based on either religious or shared-profit motives have persisted. (Want some Land-O-Lakes?)

Realizing that we are all part of the creative class, that we all have solutions and insights into today's world, that we all have a common stake in improving our cities, lets us buy into the cooperative nature of our neighborhoods, our cities, and our states.

While still keeping our freedom.


How to avoid making an economist's mistake

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A recent Economist magazine has a wonderful throwaway note that illustrates all that is wrong with economists in general. (How much of a throwaway quote? Enough so that it doesn't make it into the website...)

It notes that consumer spending in the UK was up 3.5% in May, largely due to the need to buy new clothes during the recent warm spell. They take this to imply that consumers are more resilient than typically expected.

That statement demonstrates the basic simplicity - and problematic nature - of economic models. We could argue all day about the rationality (or lack thereof) of economic actors, but this is a more fundamental flaw. It presumes that people do not change with changing economic conditions.

I do not mean to discount stories of hoarders who grew up during the Depression. They are actually fundamental to my argument. People change and are shaped by both the current environment and the environment they experienced during their so-called "formative" years. This inherently calls the universality of economic studies into question.

There is no universal "economic person"; there is not even a typical economic person for any single age. Currently, we have economic actors (discounting children) of several generations in the US. Presuming we can speak broadly about the habits of those generations (which is a dangerous presumption in itself), any aggregate measurement of consumer confidence *right now* is looking at the effects of Millenials through the remainders of the "Greatest Generation". Making generalizations about "consumers" in the US blurs the historicity of each group.

It is worse when one tries to make economic "rules" about real people. Then you are not only dealing with historical people, but almost certainly data from *past* periods of history. While Ricardo, Smith, and other Enlightenment economists could safely presume that earlier generations were raised in conditions much like the ones before, this has not been the case for nearly two centuries, and is obvious for the last 100 years.

It is well past time to remember the historicity of economic data, to recombine all our social sciences, so that each one does not have to rediscover the flaws and findings of the others.

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Bonus Story!

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My wife had (minor) surgery today, but never let it be said that I gave you nothing as a filler post! Yes, today I have for you the other bit of fanfic that I did not submit to this week's 100-word story challenge. Of course, you should stop by and vote for me... and anyone else you think is worthy.

The robot goes down in sparks, it's head bouncing across the floor. I retract my claws. snickt.

"No problem, Professor," I shout, and start walking. "I thought you were going to give me some challenging holograms for once."

Danger room my... then the scenery shifts. Over the horizon comes the dragon. Big. Green. Nasty. I snickt out my claws, but they're bound up in this cardboard costume made up of recycled... Boy Scout books. I had thought the yellow costume was bad.

"Is that all you got, bub?"

Then I see them coming in behind the dragon.

"Aw, crap. Zombies."

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Dragon, Piñata, Handbook

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The weekly challenge this week was (I kid you not) "What would you do if you found yourself face to face with a dragon and all you had was a boyscout handbook and a pinata costume?"

I have to admit, I'm surprised. While there's the occasional silly story, most of the entries this week are (IMHO), pretty darn good. Mine, as always, is below and you can hear just my entry if you like. Be sure to stop by and vote for the story (or stories) you think are the best.

The head writer's litany began the same as it had all week.

"Sharks. Piranaha. Tigers. Bullets. Female ninjas. Male ninjas. That guy who chomped things. Beheading hats. Booby traps. Even frickin' lasers. The franchise is done. What else could 007 face?"

"He could face," Justin said, while I cringed and sank into my chair, "a dragon while he had nothing but a Boy Scout Handbook and a Piñata costume."

The stuff we took at last night's party had not been THAT potent.

"This isn't MacGyver, dammit," the lead writer yelled. Then we locked eyes and shouted it together.

"A team-up!"

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What's in Your Pot?

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You are only as human as your models.

I have to apologize to Maura; she sent me a copy of George Herbert Mead's Mind, Self and Society, and I've yet to actually get to it. Between the distractions of work, school, and reading (currently Tobias Wolff and the Justice League) I simply haven't gotten to it.

I have, however, read some wonderful secondary sources, and there's an idea that, if not Mead's exactly, is extremely useful to us today. That idea is that understanding others *matters*.

A difficult thing of living with S was that his motives were frequently counter-rational. Without fully apprehending the topsy-turvy way his mind worked, it was utterly impossible to explain his behavior in any way but maliciously.

Today, we had a customer who was very irrational in their requests. By the time I saw them, their requests contradicted each other, utterly frustrating my co-workers. It's highly probable that they were scared (of us, of their situation, whatever), and that fear was coming out sideways. Any hint of (percieved) incompetence was a judgement upon us all. My blood pressure (for once) stayed low.

Why? I could understand (or at least, imagine that I understood) what was going on in their head. That didn't make their behavior any less annoying (or in S's case, less of a physical threat). It did allow me to empathize a little bit, and allowed me to keep my cool.

As we strive towards equality, commonality, and general "just getting along"-ness, we will need to develop, cultivate, and teach this kind of empathy. We will have to strive to understand where each person is coming from. That doesn't mean we must *agree* - not by any stretch of the imagination.

But stretch the imagination we must. As Resist Racism points out, unity has been misunderstood to mean homogenity. When we speak of a melting pot, we imagine all "others" becoming assimilated, and eventually becoming essentially like the dominant group.

This is an utter failure of imagination. Instead, we who are the dominant group must stretch our imaginations, our acceptance. We must learn to see the "other" as equivalent (though not synonymous) with "us".

The melting pot is a bankrupt analogy that is tantamount to domination. Yet in it, there is a dream of some kind of unity, and that part of the vision might yet be preserved.

I imagine a large bubbling pot, yes, but one that has texture inside. One where there are dissimilar elements. They retain most of their shape and size, but all aspects are flavored by each other. Remove any part, and the whole is poorer for it - but each part though changed is still recognizable.

I imagine a gigantic American stew, full of chunks and bits and flavor. All one dish, made of many parts. Each part influenced by the rest, but still retaining its own shape. All parts are important, all parts are equivalent, even though none of the parts are the same.

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Social fist-jabs

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I continue to be appalled at the sheer amounts of intolerance that swirls around me. It is frightening how much it has become part of the social handshaking protocols of daily life. I keep seeing people "check" to make sure they're part of the same social group. That's not new.

What is new is how much that social handshaking is based on trashing one another. Whether another co-worker, homeless people, people facing foreclosure, immigrants - the examples go on and on. I am really surprised we haven't had more controversy about fist-jabs.

I try to oppose it, to speak against it, to question expectations and stereotypes. Even with the co-workers who annoy the piss out of me, too. Sometimes the conversation changes when I am present, but I find that I am more isolated than in recent times. More often, it only changes while I'm actively questioning the stereotype. Then, before my eyes, a switch is flipped and it's right back to the original thread of bashing.

Still, I remember the little victories. No longer do we routinely talk about needing "strong men" to help lift heavy things, we just ask for "people to help". Even as some of the women I work with deny the existence of the patriarchy, they assert that they can be doctors, dentists, or anything else they want to be.

I draw the little bits of reassurance where I can, and fight where I cannot.

Oh, and be sure and bookmark this link. Something tells me it'll be mighty busy, since all the obviously craptastic rumors I've heard so far are on here.

Can someone explain to me how the same people who complained about Sen. Obama being part of the Rev. Wright's church can now be going on about how he's a "radical muslim"? I mean, doesn't one's skull eventually explode from the cognitive dissonance? If not, we should harness that pressure, using it to turn turbines and think er... discriminate our way out of the energy crisis. Yeah!

(The robot pic doesn't mean anything. Just cool. Don't stress your brain cells, unless, well, you're hooked up to the energy grid.)

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I'll Pencil You In

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I'm glad to announce that I have an article in the current issue of Teaching/Learning Matters, the American Sociological Association's Newsletter for the Section On Teaching and Learning in Sociology.


While it draws heavily on the work I did for Learning While Wearing Work Clothes, it definitely shows some different facets that weren't emphasized as heavily in earlier presentations.

Like most of the research work I've done, it has been really interesting to see how it has morphed and changed over time as I have come to realize and understand more of what I was studying.

The Summer 2008 issue Teaching/Learning Matters is available from the ASA as a free PDF link.

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Are You FULLY Ready for the Zombie Apocalypse

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If you have been paying any attention, you will have noticed that current theories of Zombification have moved from the supernatural to the viral. In fact (though it's about vampires, not zombies), Peeps is a wonderful example for the genre.

Suddenly, a shotgun is not enough.

I must admit, I have taken the Zombie Apocalypse a little seriously around here. [Insert joke about Ohio/West Virginia/Kentucky/Indiana here.] With this development, I have to present to you: The Anti Zombie Hood!

This stylish hood, here modeled by a conveniently slow "volunteer" the finest in male models, features HEPA filtration without limiting vision.
Why, in this example I am able to see both of my co-workers these zombies mocking me. But with my clear vision, I would be able to strike back while maintaining my virus-free state!

What's that, you say? Co-worker a zombie behind me? Note the lightweight construction of this filter! It would barely hamper my waddling lithe and suave movement!

You could be a victim of the Zombie Apocalypse if you don't send me money right now!

And, maybe get yourself one of these hoods in addition. And a shotgun. And shovel. And a towel. Definitely a towel.

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Transitional Times, Transitional People

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In texts about race and minority relations (including feminism), there was only one that really made a solid attempt at envisioning a post-oppression world. Paradoxes of Gender, by Judith Lorber makes the attempt at seeing a world post-gender... but I think her utopian vision suffers from the same flaw my attempt does.

Both attempts forget that there is a world already in progress.

It's arguable that I've forgotten that at other times recently - or at least, made the presumption that the world is a homogenous mass, all moving at the same speed. And, of course, that said mass of people are roughly like me. This, of course, leads us to be horribly surprised at some of the shocking things fellow humans come up with. I mean, look at this t-shirt. Do I really need to spell out what's so wrong with it?

So what can we do in this complex world?

No kind of rule-based mechanism is really going to work here. Look at the controversy around the "N word", if you need an example of that. Who can say it? Who shouldn't? What about freedom of speech? Do all people who say it mean the same thing? How can you tell?

We have a world already in existence where prejudicial (or personal) oppression, institutional oppression, and post-oppression systems all exist simultaneously. Even worse, any particular individual can exist at different places and inhabit all of these systems simultaneously (for example: A person could be horrified by racism, but think that women should be in "their place", and unwittingly supports the institutional oppression of both).

The only real possible solution is trying to always understand the other. To stop using our enlightened attitudes as a means of belittling others, and instead take on the hard work of gently correcting and educating them. As Maura points out (in a tangentally related post) mere posturing and superiority complexes are not going to change the world.

It can be infuriating that these oppressions still manage to exist, but it's even more sad that people are so trapped by these ideas that they can't break free of them.

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Tooting my own horn

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I'm among this list of winners and honorable mentions, so hooray on me. Of course, I'll link to the full text once it's up.

The winners of the Short Story and Poetry Contest
After many hours of reading, discussing and thinking it over, our staff judges have arrived at the winners for the 12th Annual Dayton Daily News Short Story and Poetry Contest.

Winning poems and stories will be published in the Life section of the Dayton Daily News next month, and also on

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Purity - from Weekly Challenge #113
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This week's Weekly Challenge is up, and you can read my entry (as always) below and hear it by itself. Of course, feel free to listen to the whole podcast and read the rest of the stories at the 100 Word Stories site (adult tag) and vote for my story - or any others you deem worthy - as well.

Snowflakes float lazily as she begins shouting. I do not fight back, and this infuriates her. Crystalline water sparkles in angled sunlight, like the shining stone in her ring that bounce bounce bounces on the floor.

She leaves tire tracks in the driveway, a bit of rubber on the street. Her suitcase, her car are gone, and so is she.

Fat wet flakes fall, coating my hair in age, weariness, fear. They come down down down and fill in the tracks with a coat of purest white.

For a little while, I can forget. For a little while, I pretend.

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Painfully disappointed in the US

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Holy .. something.

As it's probably painfully obvious, I am working at being post-racist, post-sexist, post-heterosexist, etc. And I thought that most people were too. Hell, I blogged that, publicly said it...hoped it...

...It turns out I'm a bit sheltered. More than even my wife thought. Whether part of the racism/sexism/etc watch over on Shakesville, or John Scalzi's scathing retort to Fox News' descent into blatant racism, others are noticing and reacting to the racism, sexism, and just sheer ugliness that has descended upon Sen. Obama and his family.

I'm not surprised that some of it's going on. Don't get me wrong. I expected the GOP to be nasty. I'm surprised at the extent of it. I'm surprised at how blatant it gets. And I'm surprised - and disappointed - in how much it's not being done by GOP activists, and is instead being supported by "normal" people.

And then I had one of my co-workers tell me he thought Obama was the Anti-Christ. As in the actual literal Bibilical boogeyman. Because - get this - Obama's charismatic. Mind you, said co-worker didn't realize that Revelations would have been written in Greek or Aramaic instead of Hebrew, or that the real "number of the beast" is 616, or that y'know, Jesus probably wouldn't have been too cool about attacking Iraq, but wev.

And I'm damn disappointed. I really thought better of people. I've managed to pull myself out of a several year "I wish Ents just smashed everyone" funk, and, well... I thought better of people.

So the question then is: What To Do?

And I think Sen. Obama has the answer. (Yeah, no surprise. But seriously.)

Throughout this campaign he has reacted with grace and poise to every attack. Things that would have had me coating commentators (or debate moderators) with spittle, he handled with aplomb. As if the stupidity was beneath comment - though the *person* was not. Rather than react with fury and rage, the racism and stupidity has been simply dismissed.

And I remember Ray Messer (who has no idea I'm writing this, and I have no idea what his political leanings are). He did more to help my older son S than any other therapist. One of the most important things he tried to teach me was that reacting with anger only diminishes you, and empowers the offensive person.

That is what I believe Sen. Obama has done, to a degree I have difficulty understanding, let alone emulating. But I will continue to try.

I will work to demolish the social constructions. I will do what I can to illuminate the bankruptcy of systems of privilege - and I will take their venom and anger with a placid smile.

Consider this permission to please thwap me when I forget. :)

By the by, I'd like to publicly recognized Shakesville; they've showed that they're practicing what they preach. After months of the Sen Clinton sexism watch, they've quickly taken up a racism watch in regards to Sen. Obama. They're practicing what they preach about progressives being all about fighting *all* types of oppression, and that's worth recognizing. Also, I'd like to recognize John Scalzi, whose everyday wit and sheer humanity have helped keep me sane.

Because with all the negativity and bullshit out there, it's important that we do give each other encouragement once in a while.

Have a Cookie and Eat It Too

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As Maura very correctly points out in the comments, I have a problem with the phrase "have/want a cookie". I'm glad she pointed it out, because it's forced me to consider why that might be. Especially since I like cookies.

Okay, bad joke. Still, her comment deserves a real answer. Why does that phrase just grate on my nerves?

The "have a cookie" meme - in short - refers to privileged folks (primarily white males, but occasionally white females) wanting praise and recognition for making some token (and immaterial) gesture of equality.

(Warning - sarcasm quotes ahead.)

Much like "fauxgressive" (someone who is progressive in one area but ignores intersecting oppressions), these meme has some merits. Some gestures of "diversity" and "equality" are little more than style without even the slightest bit of substance. Some even reinforce the systems of power and privilege while paying some token "respect" to oppressed groups. (Or utterly failing to do even that, really). Both "fauxgressive" and "want a cookie" can call attention to a lack of change that is disguised as change, and draw attention to how little people with privilege are doing compared to what they can be doing.


Both terms have already become overused as blanket dismissive statements, rather than as the beginning of a dialectic dialogue. When used in this cynical way, they become toxic to all parties involved - especially when talking about individuals.

I've discussed my problems with "fauxgressive" elsewhere. But "wanting a cookie" has the potential to be worse.

When these terms are used cynically and as blanket dismissals of others, it hurts the person making the statement. Much like gender roles poisonously trap all people into behaviors, self-selected divisions can do the same thing. Creating additional prejudice ( is not going to help anybody. Castigating people for coming up against the previously invisible walls of racism (or sexism or heteroism or...) and not reacting the same way as you would is setting you up for a very, very pessimistic view of the world.

And then there's the target of the statement. For those of us granted privilege even a token gesture can be seen as betraying race, gender, or class. Claiming that gestures or attempts at equality are just wanting praise is equivalent of claiming people are gay just to be "hip". Both concepts are ludicrous.

I had the privilege of meeting a young sociologist who just graduated from a small Ohio University. They noticed that the school was predominately white, and so began to conduct a survey of perceptions of race relations on campus. Merely asking about race relations got a lot of negative feedback from both students and faculty. Some of the comments on the survey were:

  • White POWER!!!!!
  • In the email message you sent to me, you mentioned changing [the university]. I picked this school because of the way it IS not the way that other people could make it. This school is everything I want at this time; it doesn't need to be changed.
  • There are not a lot of students of color on campus so my interaction is limited to mostly white students, but I don't have a problem with it.
  • the woMENS center is garbage and a waste of money.
  • By bringing up the issue of race, you're making the issue worse.

As she shared with me in e-mail:

The "resistance" that I received was very subtle from specific sources (such as Senior Administration and the student body) yet significant. My advisor/professor had heard several comments about the shock that the campus had felt because of the survey. She is on a diversity task force which was implemented last semester and they were concerned about the results as well as the buzz that it had created on campus.
It's arguable that this student sociologist did not do enough, that what she did was simply "wanting a cookie" by writing up the (supposedly) obvious to present at a conference. But our praise there - and she did get some, and deserved it - is only temporary. She risked something in continuing her project. Whether immediate consequences of friendships and social relations, or later letters of recommendation from faculty, her project could have damaged her status.

While that tradeoff and risk may seem minor to those without privilege, it is something big to those who have it. It's perspective, after all. When looking back at our own first steps towards breaking cycles of privilege, don't they seem small? Don't our earlier words and actions seem inferior, now - even though they were so serious at the time?

Remember, we are not all at the same place in this journey. After this first step, this student is now fully committed to making greater changes after seeing it for themselves. Rather than be dismissed as "wanting a cookie" and turning away from this sometimes difficult road, she is now fully committed to continuing on this journey.

It is regularly stated that those with privilege must become race, gender, and class "traitors" in the pursuit of equality. That ultimately, we who have privilege (whether asked for or not) must learn to see it, then cede it. If our goal (your goal? my goal?) is to encourage those with privilege to recognize and subvert their privilege, then maybe a little encouragement - especially in the early stages - is a good thing.

When I was young, my mother counseled me to not measure myself against other people, but to measure how I stacked up against myself. That as long as I continued to show improvement, that as long as I did as much as I could at that time, then I was succeeding.

We must always strive to improve. We can never simply stop and presume that I've done enough.

But perhaps every once in a while, we can take a brief break and share a cookie with friends.

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Changing your Salad

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We are getting our second week's worth of vegetables from a CSA - Community Supported Agriculture - farm today. It's not too far from our home on the urban edge of suburbia, and the vegetables are excellent. While economic and social conditions may not be great for many sectors of the economy, local agriculture and CSAs are set to thrive.

The rise in transportation costs is the biggest economic factor that will help local agriculture. We are used to having food shipped from megafarms across the country - or across the world. A case in point - apple juice from a major juice company contains apples from Europe and both North and South America.

This sort of farming made sense when transportation costs were low. But now that transportation costs continue to rise, it will become more and more expensive to import food. Local farms will find themselves suddenly much more competitive simply because there are much lower transportation costs.

The social factor is the increased awareness about infection vectors. The recent contamination of meat, spinach, lettuce, and tomatoes has alerted us to the problems of large, central processing. When all the food passes through one area, it is easy for all the food to get contaminated. The decentralized nature of local farms means that any contamination would be contained and much smaller in scope.

There are CSAs, farmer's markets, and all sorts of local food across the USA. We found our CSA through Local Harvest.

Last night, my wife was eating salad she had bought from a store. As we went over our schedule for the next few days, I mentioned that our CSA pickup was the next day. She pushed the half-eaten bowl of storebought salad away.

"Finally," she said, "real salad again."

Saying "I told you so"...

I asked one of my co-workers - who claims to be a Republican, and supports all things Republican - how it's possible to laud Ronald Reagan as a great statesman... but malign actors for having political opinions. She had no answer.

That leads me to today's quick thought:

The current "attack" by the right wing against Sen. Obama is that he's "radical". Hannity and the right-wing attack machine has been hyping this big-time. This is just another bit of hypocrisy. The USA's Republican party (I mean nearly all of the politicians and talking heads, mind you) has been radically right-wing for about thirty to forty years. So from the far far right, I can imagine a moderate seems far to the left. But that's a wierd bit of relativism there - which is itself another irony.

Besides, can the leftists start saying "We were right?" now? Just in recent memory, we've been right about:

* The environment & global climate change
* The problems of sprawl
* The Housing Bubble
* Gasoline usage
* US role in torture
* Political Corruption
* The Iraq War
* Profiteering
* Detriments of Globalization

Sure, maybe a few details weren't quite right, but the broad direction was. So let me repeat that:

The left was correct. We told you so. Although we may not feel too sorry for you, we aren't saying this to brag, or to make ourselves feel superior.

No. This is more like an intervention.

Will you at least *listen* now?

Before it's too late?


Being Shoved into Community

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The Synthesis is Coming - I Can Feel It

No backstory, folks, very little explanation. I hope I don't lose you, but if I do, ask for clarification in the comments.

Hegelian theory has the thesis, antithesis, and the eventual synthesis. It seems - at least from the representations of Hegelian thought I've seen - that this is generally considered to take place in a generation or two. This may not be the case. Maybe we're at the end of a two-hundred year synthesis between modernism and postmodernism. (This is relevant to you, stick with me...)

Maura talks rather exquisitely about the deterioration of community, with a very Durkheimian sensibility (I'm surprised she doesn't actually say "anomie"). This basic concept of community and society is indicative of the modern era. Yet there's a degree of relativism in her writing as well, a postmodern sensibility that there is worth in other ways (though not the silly extremes of total relativism, because, you know, she's *smart*). This synthesis of the modern and postmodern is indicative of a new way.

New way? What's this about a new way?

Both modernism (that is, the classical idea of modernism) and postmodernism have largely failed. But a relatively new sensibility has grown - become a synthesis - between these two large modes of thinking. It takes the best of both, in experimental mashups of thought, theory, and experiment.

This could be seen as a threat - both in popular culture and in academia. Existing power structures are enraged at "thier" ideas, concepts, and art being remixed into something new and different. The existing powers-that-be claim it subverts and undermines the "real message" or "intended meaning" of the original thinker/artist/whatever.

The Internet Doesn't Kill Community, People Kill Community

Our ideas of social relationships have suddenly become horribly textual in nature. Even as they have done so, rebellion has already come to pass. Whether it be the chunky way that articles are written on the 'net, or the near-l33tness of txting, we've instinctually recognized the structures and strictures of text and worked to move past it.

But even as we forge communities textually, as niche individuals are finally able to find others like themselves, we lose geographic community.

In my (geographical) community, I would daresay a large part of that is due to "squelchers" - already enpowered individuals who crush that which upsets thet status quo. But the original era of meeting only in cyberspace is nearly over. Meetups - once a stable of BBS scenes (yeah, I'm that old peeps, cope) are spontaneously happening once again. Tweetups, for example.

Geographical Internet Communities are also originating in other, organic ways. Geotagging, Waymarking, Tweets within X miles of a zip code, geographic aggregators and (geographical) community blogs are all parts of this synthesis bringing the digital layer back into meatspace.

And We Better Get Used To It

Transportation costs are already having more of an effect on trade than *any* tariff. This has huge implications for bedroom communities, WalMart (and Oriental Trading Company, and numerous others). It also has implications for places like Dayton.

David Esrati proposed a tax incentive for businesses that encouraged local employees to walk to work. This is a GREAT idea. There are some logistical bugs (how do you prove it, how do you claim it, and is the tax burden such an elastic demand that tax incentives will have an effect?) but it serves a key and core purpose: Providing an incentive to restructure our lives before we are *forced* to.

Even better, such incentives (including community public transportation) will help aid cross-cutting speech among real people. Again, as Maura pointed out, people have a tendency to self-select segregation. This doesn't make it "natural" or "right" - and we must NEVER presume those two words are synonymous - but it does make it predictable. Work and school are the few times we find ourselves voluntarily rubbing up against other people unlike ourselves.

Making a Local Change: Investing In People

And this is a great opportunity for education. As old styles of production change, there will be a lot of structural unemployment. However, older students (and older graduates and older workers) are rarely likely to relocate. This provides a wonderful opportunity for universities to court older citizens in their communities as new students - and these alumi will be more likely to stay in the area they came from.

This kind of regionalism - combined with information dispersal of the Internet - is capable of literally transforming the ways we do business in a the space of a few short years. Or, if we fail to grasp those opportunities, we may find ourselves in economic backwaters, swirling slowly in the eddies of those who have passed us by.

This is an age of transition, where huge obstacles and huge opportunity await us. Any movement - ANY - that puts our communities in a proactive instead of reactive position will help reduce the negatives and accentuate the positives.

It is time for a new way, a mash-up way. A way that is creative, that uses the tools we have, and recognizes obstacles as roadsigns towards unexpected opportunity.

Whiskey - A 100 Word Story

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This story is also part of this week's 100 Word Story Weekly Challenge. Please stop by there and vote for the story (or stories) that you enjoy. As always, you can hear my section alone right here. And now, for the story:
"Aw, hell. Zombies."

Professor Heath laughed from across the bar.

"No, they're whiskey sours."

He drank his, then poured more gunpowder into his shotgun shells. Nicole poured another round of whiskey, then passed out rounds for our pistols.

"I thought," she said, "Romero's zombie movies were a commentary on the mindless nature of modern American society."

"What, nihilism?" I snorted. "It's all mindless and will eat you in the end?"

The Professor stood and smiled.

"There is only one effective response to both nihilism and the undead."

He took aim through the boards on the window and fired.

"Decisive action."

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Hearing the Uncanny Valley

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There's a concept known as the Uncanny Valley. In short, it basically states that while people accept totally fake cartoons as "real" characters, and real people as real characters, almost real triggers something in us that just makes us feel... wrong.

I believe Mead's hypothesis of the I and Me explains this. We model our ideas of ourselves - and others - and when things don't fit the expected model, especially when it's just a little off, it unconsciously throws our whole internal model of the world into question. Usually, this means we reject what we're seeing (hence the Uncanny Valley)... but when we can't, it leads to a deep disquiet.

Think about the last time you lost something that you knew where it was. It might have been unimportant, a minor little thing. But since you knew where it was supposed to be, your model of the world was unreconcilably compromised. Until you could find the thing, that deep disquiet bothered you.

In my experience, this also shows up with the mentally ill. Something is just a little off (and in my experience, the exact something is irrelevant). They may be mostly functional, but some undefinable thing just isn't right.

That kind of disquiet is hard enough to shake off when it's your keys; it is much harder when dealing with another human. This may be at the heart of continued discrimination against the mentally ill. After all, it's just another disease.

One gentleman keeps sending typewritten letters to my home - and apparently to many others as well. They are dense, thick texts, written with a real analog typewriter and hand-addressed. They, too, give off this feeling of the uncanny valley. A while back, I had dictated one of these, simply because of the very powerful unsettled feeling it gave me. While I expurgated all identifying details, it's otherwise comeptely "sic". Give it a listen.

I can hear the echoes of the uncanny valley. Can you?

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Happy Pictures of You

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For some lighter fare, it's pictureblogging time! If you want to see more, you can check out my Flickr stream.

The warrior princess examines nature, and finds it to her liking. I was really impressed by how often my niece really just stopped and examined nature.

The warrior princess. (Okay, backstory. My wife and her friend had all arranged this "princess party". And I had just been steeped in ten weeks of feminist sociological theory. So yeah, it quickly turned into a warrior princess party.)

I wish I had been able to find a tiara for C.

While C. might be a competitive Irish dancer... he's also ten. His attention wanders.

The princess cake.

My niece, just looking adorable.

My son. Looking... well, like my son.

And to wrap it up, a picture taken by my niece. The beauty that children create. :)

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The times, they are changing...

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I have never gotten a chill from a political e-mail before. Politicians, yes. Speeches, yes. A fundraising e-mail? Never.

Until tonight.

(Emphasis mine.)
As we move toward the general election, the Democratic Party has to be the Party of ordinary Americans, not Washington lobbyists and special interests. We've unilaterally agreed to shut lobbyists out of the process, and are we're relying on people just like you.

This is simply astounding.

This is simply amazing.

This is inspiring.

Go in any political science class, and you'll quickly be reminded that this is a republic, not a democracy. Relying on large contributions, using money as a stand in for human speech, these things take us farther away from the democracy of our ideals. For the Democratic party - for any party - to take this massive step towards fair financing of elections is amazing. It is a brave and bold step towards becoming the country of our dreams instead of the country of our nightmares.

Show your support.

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It's not you, it's me.

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"Maybe it's me."

I thought that a lot through my teenage years and my twenties. I did not date a lot, and a lot of my relationships self-destructed pretty quickly. And many of my older women friends tried to tell me I was wrong. They told me I was a great guy, and if they were ten or twenty years younger, they would have dated me themselves.

Of course, they were completely incorrect.

At least in saying that it was NOT me. Sure, they were telling the truth about thinking I was a good guy (or at least, I hope they were!). But it was just as much me as it was the women I was trying to go out with.

But here's the key - that doesn't mean that I was doing anything wrong. (Side note: I *was*; I had a big tendency to get really obsessive and melancholy. I was emo before emo, dammit.) Anyway, the women I was trying to go out with were expecting certain types of traits. They got these ideas from early experiences, friends, the media - you name it. (I could tell you about the three women who did the most to shape my ideas of attractiveness, but won't.)

I did not fit their ideas of a good person to date. I was exhibiting traits that my older female friends - for whatever reason - found more attractive. This doesn't mean any one group was inherently *wrong* - but it does mean that I observed a very real pattern of events. That is, I didn't date a lot.

You can see that in any social situation. If you are a staunch Republican and find yourself constantly trying to interact with a bunch of equally ideological Democrats, you will soon think there's a pattern there. And there is a pattern. It *is* you. But that does not mean you are what needs changing.

But evaluating whether or not that is a bad thing... that is a different evaluation entirely. I say, screw 'em.

Ignore the hairless apes.

Be a human.

Be the problems you wish to see in the world...

(yeah, I'm lookin' at you, chica...)

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Towards a Level Playing Field

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I tend to believe in a meritocracy. The American Ruling Class claims that a meritocracy was how the powers-that-be perpetuate themselves, but I do not think that's the case. That kind of elitism has some degree of meritocracy (competence counts), but it's more about connections (your parents and schoolmates count *more*). The Horatio Alger myth has the persistent power of urban legend simply because merit does count - somewhat.

Also, a meritocracy has the best promise of class mobility. There's something inherently "fair" about the idea. Those who work hard, are motivated, and possess skill should be successful.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. The quality of one's educational system, one's home environment, one's neighborhood, and a whole host of other factors make the playing field far from level. Due to factors outside their control, large swaths of our population are effectively "handicapped" (in the sports sense). While it is still possible to succeed with these "handicaps", it makes a meritocracy far from fair.

Again, we're talking about a hypothetical meritocracy, which *is not* what we currently have in the USA. While there are elements of a meritocracy - and a huge *myth* that we're a meritocracy - personal connections and social class markers (dress, manner of speech, etc) play a much greater part in our modern society.

Even if the social class aspect were to disappear today, the uneven playing field would persist. This, too, is an echo of prejudice. It is pernicious, simply because it *can* be overcome. This allows the Horatio Alger myth to persist, justifying the privilege of those who got a head start on the playing field of life.

We can debate theoretical issues, but we cannot forget the complex reality on the ground. There are, right now, people who need to be in college to earn enough to live, but lack the skills needed to survive in a college environment. While remedial classes can help, they carry their own stigma. Yet simply tossing people into a task-conditions-standard environment without the basic skills needed to survive there is detrimental to all.

The obvious and needed solution is to totally overhaul the education system from the ground up - but until then, how can we best help those already in the belly of the beast?

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Portrait of the Writer as a Classist Young Man

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It was only after I had roundly mocked the student's report that my prof pointed it out: "It's because of their social class."

My wife has occassionally let me look over a few of her student's papers. Usually, she wants to ensure that her comments are helpful and appropriate. Occasionally, the paper is hilarious. This one read like Borat, or an old Andy Kaufmann sketch. So when a professor friend came over, when we were all kvetching about students with low standards, I decided to share my "interpretative reading" of this paper.

She did not call me classist. She did not take umbrage, she did not grow angry. She just pointed out, in less than ten words, where my assumptions about intellect were really about class values. Where I was just as bad as standardized tests and the cultural standards that work to invisibly keep people "in their place".

That wasn't the end of the conversation, mind you. I did question it (long story short: I forgot that the concept "writing as a separate and different stylistic thing than normal speech" tends to be class-centered, which is why class differences in speech cadences were showing up in text), but she was right. I was wrong.

It's always startling when you find yourself being hypocritical. I'm thankful she pointed it out. It's pretty well documented that speaking with a southern accent will lead you being percieved as being less intelligent (for example). But I simply didn't expect it to come through in writing.

Which leads us to something I'm thinking about: How do we disassociate certain skills - e.g. writing proficiency - from a class structure? I'm all too aware that those who break class (and other social) expectations are roundly shunned. While from our perspective that's something to be desired, it is horribly difficult when all your peers deliberately exclude you.

So how should our society do it? How do we make the skill separate from the social class? Or do we simply recognize this, and institute crash-courses at the college level?

I'm side-stepping the "why should everyone conform to my social class" issue for this specific example; being able to accurately convey information (which is sometimes not the case) is vital. I'm not talking about stylistic flourishes, just basic composition here. There are a lot of people who (at least from what I'm being told) who have trouble writing "My Summer Vacation" in anything other than txt.

Any thoughts or ideas are welcomed, as are (as always) people telling me I'm full of it.

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A Call For Trained Parents

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While discussing yesterday's blog post with my wife, she pointed out my naievity. She considers USAian society - at best - in the second stage of the struggle to rid itself of the structures of oppression. She's probably right; my viewpoint is inherently colored by my whiteness and maleness. I am simply treated differently, whether I wish it or not.

Still, I think there's some rationality to my hope. Public displays of open racism and sexism are rarer and usually socially unacceptable (though I'm horribly aware of all the conditionals in this sentence). The distance index (how close of a relationship you'd be okay with having someone of a differeent race) has been showing signs of improving attitudes for decades. These all seem to indicate that while the first two stages of struggle are not over, they're mopping up operations instead of the massive efforts of prior decades.

Which brings me to adoption. I'm explicitly avoiding the high-publicity foreign adoptions, and instead addressing interracial adoptions here in the US. Resist Racism points out (and correctly, IMHO) that the supposed "stigma" of tests and specter of "political correctness" have been used to avoid the appropriate examination of prospective adoptive parents. They also point out that barriers to Blacks (and, FWIW, I'd extend that to any/all minorities) adopting should be removed. I think I'm correct in thinking this is sarcasm:

So basically, we have this “adoption expert” suggesting that barriers for white families to adopt black kids should be removed. However, no attempts should be made to remove barriers for black families. That would make those black parents compete with the white parents, and that wouldn’t be fair.

Which makes sense, right? There's no reason that Blacks (or any minority) should face additional barriers based on race. It's also bolstered by this quote (not sarcastic):

If you use race as a consideration in judging two prospective sets of adoptive parents, one white, one black, the black family is going to win. And that is an “overwhelming factor”–better that race not be considered “at all.” Because taking race out of the equation advantages the white family.

I don't think that's an absolute, or that it has to be that way. At least, that's presuming we talking about being able to provide and care for a child. We're talking about good, trained parents, right? I agree with them that training absolutely should be used as a consideration of their readiness to adopt a child. So we're good, right? Or are we talking about something else? There is a subtext that's hinted at above, and is really explicitly made clear at the very end:

But [whites] resent being told that they can’t [adopt black babies], or implications that they might be lesser parents when compared to black people.
[emphasis mine]

I have a problem with that kind of blanket assertion. I cannot - no matter how hard I try - really comprehend the experience of living as a minority in the US. I cannot truly, fully apprehend the privilege, advantages, and power I have merely due to an accident of genetics. This is true.

But if we take this logic to at face value, this implies that all parents must be just like (and experience the same things) as their children in order to care for (and about) them.

Which is so much crap.

That implies that every mother *cannot* truly empathize with their son and that every father *cannot* empathize with their daughter. While it might make some things easier, that doesn't make one gender or race automatically (or always) better than another.

It might be easier to empathize with those most like you. I may not - for example - have very many practical common experiences with my son's competitive Irish dance experience. (By very many, I mean "none". I can barely do the junior-high slow dance shuffle.) But I can still understand his disappointment when he has a bad performance. I can understand his frustration with other dancers when they behave rudely. I can feel his pride and accomplishment when he does well despite the disadvantages he has. But it is difficult, and we've had to work at it along the way. We've even gotten professional training (i.e. a therapist) to help us relate more effectively.

Which is why it's awesome that a commenter linked to John Ridley's NPR commentary.

He quite clearly points out the above:

White folks, no matter how well-meaning or open-minded, have no true idea what it's like to be black in America.

But unlike Resist Racism, he both acknowledges the difficulties... while not assuming the worst about potential transracial adopters:

Parents who engage in transracial adoptions are clearly committed, brave and, above all, loving. They should be fully prepared as well.

Adopting inter-racially would require the adoptive parents to be able to empathize with children that are not like them, with children who will inherently have different experiences than them. But in many ways, that's what all parents - adoptive or not - must do.

Personally, I think both commentators are right, and stop short of what is needed: Mandatory parenting classes for all prospective parents, biological, adoptive, or foster. Because parenting doesn't come naturally - to men or women - regardless of race. It's a learned skill. Some people are better at it than others, but all of us could use some additional training.

Please feel free, by the by, to tell me how wrong I am in the comments. ;)

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Echoes of Prejudice

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Embedded in - but rarely resolved by - every revolutionary movement is the transition problem. Though this can include hypocritical leaders selling out revolutionary ideology (see: Stalin, Lenin, et al), that's not specifically what I mean. I'm talking about the problem created by *winning*.

In more social revolutions - the moves away from racism, sexism, heteroism - the fight against the Archie Bunkers of the world is the primary and initially most difficult fight. This initial level - the one that tends to be dramatized in history classes - has starkly opposed sides. It is usually easy - especially with the benefit of historical hindsight - to determine the faultlines. Problems are stated and resolved in terms of individual ideology: Individuals are racist, therefore you educate and change individuals. This works, because individuals even though individuals are *prejudiced*, not *racist*, lots of individual prejudice creates the racist systems that are being fought against.

The secondary struggle tends to look at intersections of oppression - where those struggling against one form of oppression (and keenly aware of it) are ignorant of the other avenues that they, too might oppress. Patricia Hill Collins makes this point exquisitely clear in her analysis of how the Black civil rights movement often forgot women's equality in the meantime. This shares many of the aspects of the primary struggle, except that one's heroes may suddenly become flawed "opponents". Regardless, it too is frequently stated in terms of individuality and individual prejudice.

Neither of these are the most difficult stage of the struggle. This third stage - the one I suspect we are in the midst of now - is one where the Archie Bunkers are on the way out. They are not the dominant group anymore, and their prejudices are impolite at best. There is a danger they may regain power or popularity, as the neo-nazi movements did after Geraldo put them on television, but they are largely insignificant. Yet, despite the widespread eradication or suppression of open prejudice, systems of oppression remain. And that is why this stage is the most difficult - and crucial - of all.

The remaining systems of oppression are still very real, but now are especially insiduous. While it's possible that there are some prejudiced types still trying to be sneaky, it is far more likely that earlier prejudice is ossified into the social systems that surround us. That is, the available options are not obvious, nor intended as prejudiced - but the effects are the same. It is the resonating echoes of earlier prejudice - but unlike sound, these echoes will not disappear on their own. Erasing these echoes of prejudice, these ossified systems of oppression, requires extra vigilance on our part. Because these systems are subtle, it may seem insignificant at first. Things may not match our "common sense" because it too is impacted by these echoes. We're so used to hearing the echo that it has become part of the background noise, unnoticed until it is finally gone.

Oh, but that's not the difficult part. Yes, being extra vigilant is difficult. Pointing out systems of oppression which have no prejudicial intent is frequently thankless work. But it is more difficult than that.

The first two stages of struggle were productive. They, at least in part, worked. This means that not only did the Archie Bunkers go away (or at least into hiding), but there are new, transitional people. These are the people who have never thought of Aunt Jemima as a "mammy" image - because they've never seen a "mammy" before. These are the people who find 9 to 5 quaint, but cartoonish, and have a hard time believing that sexual harassment was ever that bad, because it's simply horrifying. These are the transcendent ones. They are the ones we have strived to produce. With any degree of luck and effort on our part, they will hear the echoes of prejudice and be annoyed by the whine.

But they may also become our unwitting targets. While "throw like a girl" still carries all its sexist connotations, what about "half-assed", which meant exactly the same thing a century ago? Does an image of Black people eating watermelong *always* have to have a hidden racial message? At one point can one say that a woman is "sometimes moody" and mean *only* that rather than some hidden message about menstruation?

Whenever there is an illness in your body, there is a balancing act performed. Your white blood cells must be aggressive enough to destroy the invader. Being not quite aggressive enough results in just the toughest bugs remaining - and those superbugs wreaking havoc in your body. Being too aggressive results in autoimmune disorders, where your body effectively tears itself apart.

Our society is now at that place, that balancing act, with many of the structures of oppression. While we must be aggressive in silencing the echoes of prejudice, we must also make sure to not gag our allies.

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100 Word Story: One

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You scream over the echoes of the bomb: "Call 911!"

Two rescue breaths, just like in the book, move down. Find the xyphoid, ignore the twisted shape of his ribs and push push. Ignore that this kid had shoved in front of you, ignore his shrapnel and his burned flesh on your hands. Push push. Move back up, head-tilt-chin-thrust. He's young, no lines on his face, then the sirens and wounded wail in chorus, remember breathe, breathe. Fingers on his neck, feel for a pulse, feel for breath on your cheek. C'mon, any pulse.

Just a little heartbeat.

Just one.

Find a CPR class near you.

Vote for this story (and read others) at 100 Word Stories

Click to hear me read the story (MP3 format).

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