The Nose-Piercing of Destiny

About six weeks ago, I did something that I’ve been thinking about for a solid fifteen years:  I got my nose pierced.  I can’t tell you that there’s one particular reason why it took me so long to do it; instead, it would be more accurate to describe a million minor discouragements along the way.   But when I  recently found myself admiring a friend’s piercing (framing the compliment within the narrative of my own unfulfilled intentions), it didn’t take much for her to convince me to go for it. Continue reading “The Nose-Piercing of Destiny”

Fighting Exclusion with Exclusion

Algodones_sand-dune-fenceDonald Trump’s position statement last week excluding Muslims from entering the United States generated a round of bipartisan condemnation, as the White House spokesperson asserted that the statement disqualified Trump from the Presidency and Dick Cheney, among others, argued that the position “goes against everything we stand for and believe in.” While I certainly agree that Trump’s discriminatory approach should be rejected, the effort to exclude the excluder invites reflection on acts of identification. Continue reading “Fighting Exclusion with Exclusion”

Learning Whom to Fear

Anti-Chinese_Cartoon_from_1886In the 70’s and 80’s (my formative years), the Soviets were presented as the main enemy to be feared. Angst over the threat of nuclear destruction became a regular part of the news cycle, political decisions, and military spending. That, of course, has changed in many ways. The fall of the Soviet block, perhaps partially fueled by the Soviet quagmire in Afghanistan in the 1980’s (when the US armed Osama bin Laden), shifted the focus towards the Middle East. Now the 24-hour news cycle, political decisions, and military spending often discuss the threat of terrorism, which means extremist Islam for many people. (Extremist Christians aren’t terrorists, of course, in the common discourse.) Continue reading “Learning Whom to Fear”

Bill Maher and Reza Aslan, Two Peas in a Pod

800px-President_Megawati_Sukarnoputri_-_IndonesiaA scholar, a comedian, and two CNN anchors. While they contrasted their assertions vehemently, were they really so different? Reza Aslan’s take down of Bill Maher on CNN Tonight on Monday focused on Maher’s “unsophisticated” oversimplification of Muslims (which CNN anchors Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota continued in their repeated generalization of “Muslim countries”). But, to attack them for oversimplifying, Aslan used his own problematic oversimplifications. Continue reading “Bill Maher and Reza Aslan, Two Peas in a Pod”

Matters of Classification

Picture 4The online debates have already begun, on the heels of yesterday’s deadly shooting at a Jewish community center, and then a nearby retirement community, in a suburb of Kansas City.

On the Southern Poverty Law Center’s site, where the suspect’s well-known far right background is reported, you can also find the above discussion among the reader comments, as part of a larger series of comments, concerning how we will now come to understand, and thus respond to, the event. Continue reading “Matters of Classification”

“The Jewish People”

Jueus_ultraortodoxes_satmar_a_brooklyn-2A meme circulating on Facebook recently came from the website JewsNews, which identifies its objective as “bringing truthful news to the world” for its readers, whom it identifies as primarily “Jews and supporters of Israel”. The meme entitled “Let’s Sum Up The Jewish People In A Nutshell” repeated a photo of a presumably Orthodox Jewish man with captions like the following: “Religion doesn’t allow pork . . . doesn’t try to make it illegal,” “Cashier says ‘Merry Christmas’ . . . doesn’t complain about a ‘War on Hanukkah,” and “Thinks differently than you . . . doesn’t tell you you’re going to hell.” I certainly read those captions as an effort to critique particular expressions among some Christians in the United States, presenting “The Jewish People” as more inclusive and respecting. Continue reading ““The Jewish People””

“It’s Sort of Traditional, I Guess…”

grillingA former student posted a great clip from the old “Leave it to Beaver” show (1957-1963), in which dad explains to Wally the facts of life, at least when it comes to cooking outdoors. Continue reading ““It’s Sort of Traditional, I Guess…””