Tuesday, January 29, 2008

That Banal Trope, Again

"They hate our freedom." Let's take a moment and parse that phrase.

"They." Not us, but them - the other. "Terrorists" and "extremists." Some group outside of history, beyond our geography, alien to our culture, to very the ideas of family, duty, honor. Untouched by the ruthless force of the global economy. A people utterly without context.

"Hate." Inflamed, enraged, irrational passion, without cause or justification. A primitive, savage emotion, unfit for enlightened peoples.

"Our." The embodiment of wholesomeness. Righteousness. Again, a body without history or context. Enthralled by its own sense of goodness and destiny. (And as such, the group is eerily parallel to "them.")

"Freedom." A word so laden with meaning it can hardly be unpacked. Freedom from want? Freedom of movement? Freedom of thought? Self-determination? Freedom of choice? All of it and more. As if it is all possessed in equal measure by "our" side.

Now, I find religious despotism to be singularly distasteful. And violent fundamentalists wield a lot of power in this age. But the phrase "they hate our freedom," invoked too often here in the U.S., lacks insight of any kind. In fact, rather than explaining our enemy, it shrouds him in fear, awe, and mystery. And it elevates our own sense of specialness as a people "chosen" to confront this "enemy."

This is the language not of diplomacy and reason, but of dictatorship and theocracy. Bush's last State of the Union address? Good riddance.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

True Romance

A friend directed me to an awesome website called Overheard in Minneapolis. City dwellers are invited to post stories of outrageous and ridiculous statements made by complete strangers. My absolute favorite:
Guy yelling into cell phone: You know there ain't no one else. All them other bitches, I don't talk to them any more. I don't want no other bitches, just you. I'm with you all the motherfuckin' time. I ain't got time to be with no other bitches. Why we gotta fight? Why can't we just be cool? Come on, baby.

Overheard on the light rail train, all the way from the 46th Street station to the Warehouse District.
Here's to eavesdropping!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

You Can't Make This Shit Up

So I got home from work today and said, "hey ma, how was your day besides wonderful and invigorating?" And she flashed me a bemused, exasperated look and replied, "today while I was seeing the amputee, and tending to his infected stump, the dog was sniffing my crotch. I look over at other side of the bed and see a mouse crawling up the bedspread, and the cat isn't doing anything about it. So I say to the woman, 'there's a mouse, how come the cat isn't doing anything about it?' and the woman picks up the cat and throws it at the mouse. In the meantime the amputee has shit the bed."

I love my job.

Does Anyone Else Think This Is Annoying?

Two days in a row now, I've caught the 8:39 bus to work. The driver of this route is in the habit of announcing each stop. Which is fine, that's great. It's like complying with ADA standards or something. Except she announces the time too. "Twelfth Street, 8:47. Eleventh, still 8:47. Tenth, 8:48. Ninth Street. 8:49..." and so on. SHUT UP ALREADY! I DON'T NEED TO HEAR THE GODDAMN TIME EVERY THIRTY SECONDS!


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My Mom Does The Real Work

If you're reading this, then like me, you obviously have time to sit in a semi-vegetative state staring at the tubes of the internets. But while you and I idle away our day in front of the computer, my mom is out there busting her ass to care for ungrateful and often half-sane patients as a home care nurse, working for an even less sane bureaucracy.

In my vision, the home care field is supposed to be about maintenance - caring for people who are basically OK, but who need some minor, specialized assistance. In practice, however, home care has become a dumping ground for patients with financial hardships, mental problems, or chronic conditions. What is maddening is that though home care has become a necessity in modern medicine, the for-profit health care industry looks down on this field because it makes no money.

The dehumanizing influence of capital festers at all levels. Management is obsessed with tracking the whereabouts of its home care nurses, all degree-holding professionals. Meanwhile the office staff throw each other parties and nominate each other for employee of the month. Work nights? Yes. Now why would a patient who is "basically OK" need to be seen at night? Same goes for weekends. Low pay? Yes. Considering her skill and experience level, it's shamefully low. Loads of data entry on inferior software? Yep. The latest ridiculous cost-cutting measure: the company will not provide folders to store patients' paperwork! And the list goes on. It's comically horrifying.

The clincher: my mom, a twenty-plus-year home care veteran who turns 65 in June, had to work Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day in the last month, without any incentive pay. What the hell is that? She was actually scheduled to work the entire Christmas weekend, but had to call in sick because she was so sick she couldn't get out of bed.

My job is a cushy cakewalk compared to hers.

Monday, January 7, 2008

God of War (on Science)

So one friend of mine is reading the entire transcript of the Scopes Trial in preparation for a course he's teaching on American religious history. He told me that more people believe in creationism now than in 1925. Another friend mentioned that according to Schott's Miscellanies, a recent survey of college graduates revealed that one-third expressed a belief in the literal creation story of the Christian Bible.

Both of these assertions seemed so beyond belief that I had to do a bit of cursory research myself. But I quickly corroborated both of these claims: according to religioustolerance.org, around 50% of Americans believe in literal creationism. A staggering statistic. In that context one cannot be surprised that American teens are among the worst in science, compared to their international peers. What was more surprising is just how out of step Americans are on this "issue." Again, religioustolerance.org (emphasis mine):
By one count there are some 700 scientists with respectable academic credentials (out of a total of 480,000 U.S. earth and life scientists) who give credence to creation-science [0.14%]... A British survey of 103 Roman Catholic priests, Anglican bishops and Protestant ministers/pastors showed that: 97% do not believe the world was created in six days, while 80% do not believe in the existence of Adam and Eve.
In other words, most scientists and religious scholars have wildly divergent ideas about the nature of the universe than mainstream Americans. Meanwhile, Fundamentalist Christians applaud figures that demonstrate that Americans have lost all interest in actual science, and use them to demonstrate the correctness of their positions. The insanity of that logic is apparent on its face. But it doesn't seem to matter. Mike Huckabee won in Iowa. The God of Ignorance is ascendant.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Beneath The Surface

Having been mired in my own thoughts and concerns for the last six months, politics, the economy, foreign relations, social problems... these have all been largely lost on me. But I'm coming out of it, and I'm looking around, and what I see is not encouraging. The American economy is heading for a recession, if it isn't in one already. And my family has been touched by it in a very real way: Friday my younger brother was laid off. Single dad, fifth year apprentice in his trade, hard-working man. Is this the best we can do collectively, to cast such a person aside? I hope not.

I wonder, how many homes does half a trillion dollars buy?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Two Thousand Eight

Happy New Year. I want to start this year off right! My blog foundered for the last few months, and I fell short of my goal of fifteen posts a month. It's time to dust it off and renew my commitment to writing. I dunno if fifteen per month is a viable goal, but certainly I can do a lot more writing than I did in the fourth quarter of 2007.

This year is a fresh canvas. I am going to try new things, visit new places, meet new people, have new experiences. The possibilities are vast and exciting! Onward!