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Thanksgiving Flight Security
Nov 24th, 2010 by Dr Karma

A woman interviewed on NPR today explained that if she were flying, she wouldn’t want to walk through the body scan machine because she’s over forty and “there are places no one should see.” She then explained that she’d opt for a pat down.

Um.

I’m not sure how people feeling you up is somehow less invasive than someone seeing a flash of your naked outline.

I think this is a remnant of our conflicted puritan and victorian past, which takes us back to this time of year–Thanksgiving. The puritans came over here for the opportunity to be uptight. No–they didn’t come for religious freedom–they came to establish a theocracy in which they could make everyone follow their interpretation of the Bible (or else), which is the opposite of freedom of religion (their descendants are among us today). Only a third of the people who came were puritans, by the way, the others were fortune seekers and convicts who chose America over English jails (because we were a prison colony, too).

The puritans were famously prudish about sexuality and their bodies. Yet they had a very high out of wedlock pregnancy rate. As long as the couple got married, the community didn’t really say anything about it.

The Victorians who came later were uptight as well. They covered their table legs and referred to chicken parts by color rather than saying breast or thigh. Yet venereal disease ran rampant. Most soldiers in the Civil War were not taken out of duty by death or battle injury, but by some form of sexual pox. 1 in 6 homes in Victorian London was a house of ill-repute.

No wonder all of these people who are so concerned about their privacy are opting instead to have a stranger’s hands caress them. Why settle for a grey outline of my breasts when you can put your hands right on them? (Go ahead–pretend to be outraged–Americans are great at that; I used to know a minister who’s wife would catch him watch Cinemax at 3 in the morning. He would then pontificate about the filth that “they” put on tv.)

(Of course, some people are opting out of flying all together. If they are the people who wanted to start wars for our safety, or accept civilian casualties for our safety, or who believe in preemptive strikes for our safety, or who insisted that if you didn’t agree with Bush then you were siding with the terrorists, then they need to be inconvenienced for my safety. Thousands have died for our “safety”, yet these people won’t go through a scanner? I don’t like waiting in line; I don’t like being inconvenienced; I dislike being blown up even more.)

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Happy Birthday, Margaret Atwood
Nov 18th, 2010 by Dr Karma

If you know me at all, you know that I love Margaret Atwood (who sometimes refers to me as Karmel). My dissertation was on her work, I’m the former President of the Margaret Atwood Society, and I run a weekly book group that started out as an all-Atwood reading group some six years ago. One of the great pleasures in my life is getting people to read Atwood if they haven’t done so already.

Like most people, my first glimpse at Atwood was with The Handmaid’s Tale, which we read in High School. It was banned by the district, so my private program required it be bought. One of my aunt’s found it in a used bookstore and came home to announce that I shouldn’t be allowed to read it. Apparently, there was sex with three people described vividly. My mother decided I could handle whatever it was. The sex scene referred to was far from sexy (it was the opposite of sexy, actually), but the book was glorious. It was poetry and it was social justice. It scared me and thrilled me.

After I left high school and before I went to college, I found a book of Atwood’s poetry. I wasn’t in the habit of reading poetry then, but I had loved Handmaid’s Tale so much that I took the book home and read it. If you’ve never read her poetry, check out “Variations on the word Sleep,” “Siren Song,” “This is a photograph of me,” and “you fit into me.”

If you haven’t read Atwood, you should. Because of her breadth and her use of various genres, she’s written at least one thing you would like. Not everyone loves Handmaid’s Tale, but if you’re a sci-fi person, you need to read Oryx and Crake. If you like historical novels and/or psychology, you will love Alias Grace, which is based on a true story. Shoot me an email; tell me what you like; I’ll find an Atwood for you.

My book group is throwing Atwood a birthday party in absentia today–we’re having our favorite main dish (crock-pot lasagna) and a birthday cake on which a flying pig will wish all our dreams come true. And then we’ll raise a glass to her and wish her happy birthday and many more years (and many more books).

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My Friend, the Stupid Babe
Nov 17th, 2010 by Dr Karma

On Monday, my friend Sasha Abramsky was upbraided by Rush Limbaugh. (The clip of his show and a discussion of one of the problems with it is here: http://mediamatters.org/blog/201011150020)

What sent the internet ablaze was the fact that Rush kept calling Sasha a “stupid babe.” Sasha is a man.

Now, this is an understandable mistake, especially if you don’t do any research on someone. Sasha is short for Alexander–Americans often make it a girls’ name even though it traditionally isn’t. As a Karma, which in most of the world is a man’s name, I sympathize with this kind of mix-up.

Rush’s mistake, though, points to his rather sexist language. He dismisses this “stupid babe” as a bimbo. When I listened to the clip, I kept thinking he was going to say “bimbo” or “bitch” because sometimes there were pauses on the “b”s. Since one presumably wouldn’t call a man a stupid babe, one should be careful about doing that with a woman.

At least in public if one wants to be taken seriously.

But I will admit that I use “sexist” language sometimes, although I generally use that language for everyone. I call both men and women “babe.” If you cut me off in traffic, you’re a “dick,” whether you appear to have one or not.

I’m not all that interested in Rush’s “babe” slip. It’s no great revelation that he’s sexist, and he’s said sooooo much worse that this little tidbit is almost cute.

What bothers me is the lack of fact-checking. He has a staff. If he’d done even the most basic google search, he would have not only seen that he should pick a new word, but that Sasha knew much more than Rush gave him credit for.

You see, Sasha was writing in Salon about the kind of President Obama wanted to be. Rush dismissed the short section he shared with his audience, saying this dumb babe didn’t know anything. Sasha is the author of “Inside Obama’s Brain.” If anyone is qualified to talk about how Obama thinks, it would probably be the guy who spent the better part of a year researching it. Sasha just got back from interviewing Obama’s sister as well.

The passage Rush attacked was one in which Sasha talked about what Obama believed in. Rush then said Sasha was wrong because Obama didn’t believe in them.

An example: Obama wants good government. Rush said Obama obviously didn’t and then ranted about more invasive airline screening procedures (at least I think that’s what happened; I was confused by the non-sequitor, but I refuse to go back and listen to that again).

It is perfectly acceptable to say that someone is engaging in “bad” government, whatever they believe. It is asinine to say that someone doesn’t even want good government. Rush and I seem opposed in almost every way, but I believe that he and I both want “good” government. We just have different ideas about what that is. I don’t think I know anyone who wants “bad” government, even those people who essentially want to do away with it.

Rush could have claimed that Obama wasn’t living up to what he wanted, but he had to take it that ridiculous step to the right and imply that Obama’s inherently bad by claiming that he doesn’t want good government.

That’s stupid, babe.

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Atwood under attack
Nov 12th, 2010 by Dr Karma

A prominent critic of the “theory” of climate change wants Margaret Atwood to be removed from her position on PEN. (article here: http://www.torontolife.com/daily/informer/mediaocracy/2010/11/11/climate-skeptic-wants-margaret-atwood-off-pen-board/).

PEN is an organization Atwood has been at the forefront of for years–it fights for the free speech of authors around the world (it’s akin to Amnesty International, but has a specific focus).

The critic seems not to like Atwood because of their differing views on climate and the environment, but is using a petition Atwood signed as the main evidence that Atwood should be removed. You see, Atwood signed a petition against a FOX News-like channel coming to Canada.

(There are many reasons why someone might sign such a petition. Perhaps you think the channel won’t be clear about news versus entertainment–Bill O’Reilly was on Bill Maher last week and when Maher asked him about a fact that FOX had reported, O’Reilly’s response to the completely wrong fact was that FOX wasn’t “reporting” it because it was on one of the entertainment/opinion shows. If you’ve seen the show, you know that the distinction is not at all clear. Perhaps they should change their tag to “we give you the facts (well, on the following shows, which don’t air when most viewers are watching–on the popular shows, we’re saying whatever comes into someone’s head); you decide).”

Or perhaps you might object because FOX news breaks up families. All 24 hour news makes my head hurt and the crawl seems only to have been invented to make me want to cut myself, but FOX makes me especially wary about going home, because it is impossible to avoid there.)

To recap: Atwood signed a petition. This critic says her signing the petition means she’s anti-free speech & thus should lose her position.

Petitions are free speech, though. I believe in free speech. I believe that I have to fight for your free speech, even when I think you’re wrong (unless that speech is an incitement of violence). However, I get to say that you’re wrong. I get to say that you shouldn’t say x, because x is a lie or because x is irresponsible. (Shouldn’t is different from can’t–one is censure and one is censor.) Signing a petition is exercising free speech & this critic doesn’t have to like it & this critic can say Atwood shouldn’t have, etc., but you shouldn’t say someone hates free speech because they said something you didn’t agree with.

I know I haven’t posted in a long, long time. Fall quarters are always really hard and this may be the hardest. If I stopped to list all the reasons why, I’d be late to class. Let’s just say that I was hanging on by my fingernails & then I got the stomach flu and it broke my nails.

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