Thursday, April 18, 2013


Due to some spamming and stuff, I decided to move, at least temporarily, into the backup WordPress space. Several new posts have come up since then - most of which I'm really proud of. *derp*

So, please change your settings to view us at Leftcheek Deux for the time being.

That is:

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Would They Deny the Body to the Body?

Pope Francis went into a juvenile detention center and washed some feet. Scandal of scandals!

No, seriously. The idea that the Holy Father would get down on his feet in front of poor law-breakers - some of whom are female - is scandalous, according to traditionalists within the hierarchical Catholic Church.

[On] Thursday at the Casal del Marmo juvenile detention facility in Rome... the 76-year-old Francis got down on his knees to wash and kiss the feet of 12 inmates, two of them women. The rite re-enacts Jesus' washing of the feet of his 12 apostles during the Last Supper before his crucifixion, a sign of his love and service to them. 
The church's liturgical law holds that only men can participate in the rite, given that Jesus' apostles were all male. Priests and bishops have routinely petitioned for exemptions to include women, but the law is clear... 
"People naturally imitate their leader. That's the whole point behind Jesus washing the disciples' feet. He was explicitly and intentionally setting an example for them," he said. "Pope Francis knows that he is setting an example." 
The inclusion of women in the rite is problematic for some because it could be seen as an opening of sorts to women's ordination. The Catholic Church restricts the priesthood to men, arguing that Jesus and his 12 apostles were male.

There is much to like and perhaps to not like about the new pope. There are many controversial decisions (for whatever reasons, his not wearing of fine vestments is one of them) that he has made in his short papacy, but I want to focus on the scandal of the idea that women can receive a sacrament meant only for men.

Because the origin of the limitation here is built on a notion that I've heard in hierarchical Evangelical churches as well (aka, Complementarians): the idea that Christ's apostles were men and only men. Therefore a sacred task (washing the feet in Catholic church tradition, preaching in Complementarian churches) is open only to males. No matter how socio-economically open, no matter how racially or ethnically diverse, or even how ecumenical, still one half of the world is denied something so holy.

But wouldn't this then limit also the taking of the Host, since the same foot-washing apparently limited to only Jesus' male disciples was also the same event wherein they shared the Last Supper. Shouldn't only then males drink the blood and eat the body?

Jesus' encounters with the excluded (whether they be blind, bleeding, Roman centurions, Syro-Phoenician mothers, tax collectors, the physically handicapped, the psychologically tortured (demon-possessed), or the dreaded Samaritans - even Samaritan females!) shows a different Christian witness - the witness of intentional inclusion.

In fact, if the definition of Apostle is "One sent to give witness to the Risen Christ" (which we particularly remember today), then the first Apostles were women. For they were the first to witness the empty tomb and the first to hear word of the Risen Christ and the first to spread the message - the hopeful, terrible message - of the empty tomb and not-dead Jesus.

But I guess it should be noted that those same women were at first also dismissed by the male hierarchy of the original church, as it were. It seems that much of the Christian Church is stuck in a certain time - the time after Jesus had defeated death with its finalities and its exclusions, but before the rest of the world discovers what impact this would have on them - how his resurrection and Kingdom Life would negate the distinctions the world places between Male and Female, Greek and Jew, Freeborn and Slave.

For in the body of the Risen Christ is the body of all. And the Christian Church should be a witness to that, should be leaders setting a new example, should be apostles of a New Way of Being.

Monday, March 25, 2013

"There is no wasted bullet": American Christianity's God and Terrorism

This movie should disturb Christian consciences.
Mike Kosper, writing for The Gospel Coalition, is right. Zero Dark Thirty, a gritty, controversial movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, should disturb the Christian conscience. But not in the direction that Kosper seems to be headed. Like most American Christians - like most people, period - Kosper arrives at his ending under the prevailing assumption that violence is a necessary tool used to fight evil. As most American Christians presume, he believes that God wills and desires violence and that Jesus' death on the cross was a satisfactory use of violence to quench God's thirst for violence. A violence that otherwise would overtake the world in its wrath.

 Kosper lets filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow's statement that she is a pacifist stand without question. And then he quotes and agrees with her refutation of that very claim:

Bin Laden wasn't defeated by superheroes zooming down from the sky; he was defeated by ordinary Americans who fought bravely even as they sometimes crossed moral lines, who labored greatly and intently, who gave all of themselves in both victory and defeat, in life and in death, for the defense of this nation.

This is not a statement of pacifism. It is not a statement of someone who believes that war is an active and nihilistic participation in evil and unnecessary violence. It is a statement of triumphalism, of nationalism, of agreement with those who gloat over the death of people. A winning side, a losing side. And so the game continues.

Rather than showing Seal Team Six to be superhuman warriors, surging with testosterone and screaming as they wreak havoc, they're more like a work crew, methodically operating a machinery of death that dismantles the compound and kills their targets with grim efficiency. There is no wasted bullet. No wasted energy or action. It's well coordinated, rational, and absolutely deadly.

The quote here, gruesome in itself even in its cold and methodical aims, reminds me of Calvinist theology - a cornerstone of neo-Reformed The Gospel Coalition. In fact, the Gospel itself is confused for Calvinist theology in TGC (So much so that those who do not agree with Reformed theology are accused of being unorthodox heretics). According to the Reformed doctrine of Limited Atonement, Jesus' blood on the cross was spilt for and only for those who would accept him, for those predestined to be saved. If Jesus died for those who would never accept him, his blood would have been wasted. But this idea is built upon the theological presupposition that each person is evil to the core and that nobody is intrinsically worth saving. It is a theology of violence.

On the other hand, a more open-ended view of Jesus' blood and salvation could lead one to believe that Jesus' blood was spilled not through the work of God, but as a work of violence of the state itself. The same state powers practiced to annihilate Osama bin Laden and kill children in his compound were the same forces used to kill Jesus. 

The same state powers used to dislocate dozens of thousands of black and brown school children in Chicago. The same state powers used to back up corporate and industrial wars of aggression throughout the world. The same state powers that train fascist leaders and their henchmen in Third World nations - that have thrown dissenters in rapid rivers from helicopters, that employ children as soldiers, that kill our prophets.

The same state that overflows prisons and blames murder on bad people, rather than the bad socio-economic systems that it is designed to support.

The same state that says that drones are necessary because the other option is to put troops on the ground.

The same state that assumes that some have to starve for others to live plentifully.

Yet, the neo-Reformed movement, with its intense focus on heavenly rewards and the futility of this life outside a very narrow structure focused on death, also bears a striking resemblance to the the other side of the War on Terror coin - terrorism as a strategy.

Can there be much more terrifying than that cruciform of neo-Reformed texts, Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"? A theology that has as its pretext the fact that God is angry, and this angry God needed to kill - and die - in order to sate his anger (which is still not satisfied) is a theology wrapped in terror and fear.

It seems that American Christians - and particularly the neo-Reformed Christians - need to believe in an evil other, need to believe in the holiness of violence, need to find more and more sacrifices to their terrifying version of God.

And that's terrifying. And torturous.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

And on an unrelated topic

Geeking out big, freaking time!

GQ: What else can you tell me about the show? The entire Internet wants to know. 
Jason Bateman: The last line of the last episode of Arrested Development was Ron Howard saying to Maeby—she’s pitching him a show about her family at Imagine—and he says to her, “No, I don’t see it as a series. Maybe a movie!” And then the screen goes black. That’s it. So Mitch [Hurwitz, the show’s creator] was always planning on writing a movie. Every time he went to start a movie script, there was so much work to be done just to fill the audience in on where the family had been since the end of the show, and to also initiate the uninitiated about who these characters are. So he thought: The only way to tell a story of this size is to do the first act in episodes. So it’s really a hybrid distribution of one big story. The episodes are simply act 1, and the movie will have act 2 and act 3 in it. So one does not work without the other. 
GQ: So there are stories in the episodes that won’t resolve until the movie? 
Jason Bateman: There are many, many questions that these episodes ask that only the movie will answer. And there are many stories where the loop is closed inside the episodes. But the overall story, the bigger story, once you see the movie you will see that “oh, this story started with those fourteen episodes,” because the action in these fourteen episodes happens simultaneously. Each character has their own episode. There’s a Michael episode, a Gob episode, a Lindsay episode, a Maeby episode. And the action across the episodes is happening simultaneously. If I’m driving down the street in my episode and Gob’s going down the sidewalk on his Segway, you could stop my episode, go into his episode, and follow him and see where he’s going. 
It’s not exactly like a Choose Your Own Adventure type of thing, but Mitch has written these episodes exclusively for the distribution platform and format of Netflix, knowing that they were all going to be released, like an album, on the same day. So certain clues are revealed to you based on the order in which you watch them. There will be an order that is suggested, but because part of the fun of what he does is so dense and multilayered—I mean, if you could see the writers’ room before we started shooting—the cards and literally the strings of yarn, different colored characters where plotlines and index cards are matched to this one, and then there’s an entire other room that is the movie. It looks like A Beautiful Mind.

Friday, March 22, 2013

CPS and Further De-stabilization

"We're stabilizing our district so we can build the academic performance" 
- Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennet on the closing of 52 schools in one year

We've recently discussed how a mayor who is quickly undermining the public sector and removing funding from anti-violence measures in the city has also blamed residents for the gang-centric violence in their own neighborhoods.

And now he closes down more than 50 schools in these same high-poverty, high-crime, underresourced, segregated neighborhoods. In one shot. In one year. Without adequate research, cost-analysis. Just decides it needs to be done. Tells us it needs to be done. Holds some hearings, wherein parents come out in droves to voice, loudly, their disapproval. Where parents protest, where parents and students testify that shutting down their schools is dangerous and destabilizing, where parents hold mic-checks to send signals to CPS that CPS needs to listen to us.

And CPS ignores us. They send out proxies, but the proxies are bored. Rahm is nowhere to be seen. No, wait, he's riding the slopes when this announcement is made. On his behalf.

What effect will all this have? There are some things we can guess. But for the most part, we've already seen the effects of closing down several schools simultaneously. It's violence. Kids having to choose between gangs. In a highly-segregated city replete with racialized violence against young people, do you really believe that something horrible won't happen? Just as the shooting numbers are decreasing, children and care-givers will begin the new year at the tail end of a lethal summer running from gangs? Thanks, Rahm and Barbara.

In the meantime, hundreds of Chicago residents have been summarily fired. So much for stabilization, Byrd-Bennett!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Waiting for Scabby (Schools in Crisis III)

I know unions are often vilified as the unjust protector of the lazy, incompetent, shiftless worker. Especially when it comes to public sector unions. And it's particularly fashionable to blame teachers unions such as the Chicago Teachers Union for poor performance of schools and students, especially thanks to liberal movies like Waiting for "Superman." There are times when it is true that unions protect bloating, ineffeciency, or bad workers, but those few cases are stymied out of proportion. The enemy isn't the unions. No, in fact, they protect against growing inequity, and in the case of education unions, against the corporatization and privatization of education. They protect against the current tides that would turn our students into commodities - a tide that we see is unrelenting in the post-secondary world with overwhelming debt to an increasingly costly higher education.

Rather, the enemy is a mindset that says most of our children are not welcome to the education that the wealthy kids in the wealthy regions have. The enemy is a mindset that places high "accountability" on teachers to bring test scores of students with high stress levels, with malnourished stomachs, in overcrowded and underresourced schools up to par with wealthy, well-fed, well-regulated students with private tutors and classes no larger than fifteen a piece. Our children are taught to the test. Wealthy children are taught to succeed. I'm not hating, it's just that we need that as well.

The enemy is a system that takes what little money goes to working class and black/brown students and sucks it out through the Industrial Testing Machine to "assess" what students are learning through worthless and disenfranchising bubblesheets - bubblesheets that teachers spend the better part of the year teaching their kids how to fill correctly so they'd have a chance to allow the school to not be drastically defunded.

No, the union member who is teaching my daughter how to read and add in English and Spanish is doing a fantastic job. Because she has some protections. And she is being compensated decently for it as well - not as high as should be. But decently. As should be.

I worry about the next few years, as my daughter will have to - in order to meet national "standards" that unions are trying to fight against even as the administrators shout "Do not resist!" - conform more and more to testing apparatuses that stifle intellectual curiosity.

The main problem isn't the unions or their pensions. The main problem is that teachers are not encouraged to educate in a cooperative and meaningful fashion - but compelled to conform to normalizing and competitive corporate powers.

That's what propaganda like Waiting for Superman is about. Diane Ravitch:

It bears mentioning that nations with high-performing school systems—whether Korea, Singapore, Finland, or Japan—have succeeded not by privatizing their schools or closing those with low scores, but by strengthening the education profession. They also have less poverty than we do. Fewer than 5 percent of children in Finland live in poverty, as compared to 20 percent in the United States. Those who insist that poverty doesn’t matter, that only teachers matter, prefer to ignore such contrasts. 
If we are serious about improving our schools, we will take steps to improve our teacher force, as Finland and other nations have done. That would mean better screening to select the best candidates, higher salaries, better support and mentoring systems, and better working conditions.

Teachers unions are among the only forces fighting for education of our youth in the US. So-called liberal education reformers, whether their names be Duncan, Pritzker, Guggenheim, or Byrd-Bennett, fight for educational funds, using the the people's investment money to make a few people rich. This is the price we pay for not wanting to adequately fund our future.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Robbing Widows Blind

Thinking about a certain megachurch pastor in the area and how he connected himself with other megachurch pastors - one of whom is both unsavory and infamous - and how they are all about the money in the guise of being all about the ministry and God and how they have zero accountability because their churches are non-denominational and their elder boards (which in the schematic of CEO-like churches run by the head pastor act as, well, a board) are staffed by and headed by complete Yes Men.

Thinking in wider terms about how much is too much. Teachers are assailed for making around $50,000 a year with a kind of venom usually reserved for the evil landlord from vaudeville plays, while a "successful" (whatever that word means) pastor can make $600,000 (even as his church is millions of dollars in debt) a year. A "successful" businessman can make one-fourth to a hundred times as much.

Pastors Moneybags and Burns

The rubric for "successful" in this case is messed up, of course. How do we measure success? By the amount of money one is able to siphon from parishioners, customers, clients, workers, widows and the impacted communities? How we measure the success of teachers has already proven to be completely fallible, erroneous, and dangerous. So maybe we should redefine success, and re-calibrate its measurements thus. While we're at it, we we should reconfigure how we determine compensation.

Maybe success should look be assessed on the overall value our work gives to the world - in terms of the worker, her neighbors, the community, the world. In other words, the assessments should be tied to value and worth of the work and the worker (as they relate to the greater good of the world) as a much larger goal, rather than the explicitly limited topic of finances and how much money is generated/saved/returned. For in the former, we value people, we value work, we value life, we value knowledge, we value wisdom, we value relationships and everything that is good which we desire to share with one another. In the latter, money. When our work is tied into such a limited use, our work is of little use - it is stifled. And we, as workers and as beings, are stifled.

With this correction in goals, we must also ask what is it that we value. And who and how we value.

Additionally, when a pastor-as-CEO makes the primary goal money, he (or she) devalues the very flock that he is supposed to guide and care for. He looks upon his congregation not as fully human beings to be loved and nurtured and cared for, but as products and banks to be reaped and profited from. The widows no longer need care and solace, they need to be unloaded of their houses. The orphans no longer need protection, they are just in the way of the pockets of professional parents.

Now we must ask how to compensate. The worth is in the work and the worker, but again, we've tied it all to money and thus limited all three. Money should neither be the primary evaluation nor the primary compensation. For under that rubric, a few will position themselves to acquire the most while most are purposefully positioned to acquire little (and are thus sacrificed). Not only is this game not fair, it is not just. Not only are the rewards for the work not equitable, they are not humane. Some must starve while others have so much money they don't know what to do with it? This is cruel and unnecessary and does no promote value or work - it promotes brutality. A brutality that makes itself exceedingly well-known in Third World conditions that live within First World nations.

This is what I say: Let every teacher make just more than living wage. Allow every pastor to also make as much as a living wage. Every executive? Also, frame it on the living wage. Every farmer, harvester, technician, politician, homemaker, lawyer, accountant, mechanic, doctor, journalist, bureaucrat, deliverer, janitor, etc - all should make roughly a living wage - with modifications weighted to the worth of the work provided.

That may sound cruel. But this is also what I believe: Every home should be available and affordable and safe and functional for every person and family unitevery part of medical and dental care should be completely accessible, qualitative, and covered; every meal should be accessible, healthy, adequate, and free from poisons and heavy process,.

So, maybe that means a re-assignment of value and property. And maybe a James MacDonald won't have as much monetary property as before. But then, he won't have as much debt to worry (or make his congregation worry) about either.

That would seem to go well with the whole Jesus thing anyway. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Infantization of Chicago (Schools in Crisis II)

As a new parent with some of my upbringing stuck deep inside me, I found the idea of an incredulous toddler maddening. I had to learn to break the habit of spanks and taps – all of which hurt my daughter incredibly more than any other act of hurting. She trusted her parents, I learned, and I was given the gift of her trust. So I learned in the process that I couldn’t just pick her up and do my will. She would have to make up her mind of her own volition. This would take a lot of patience on my part, a patience that I didn’t always want to sacrifice.

But, she was worth it. The trust she endeared in me was worth it. Her dignity and humanity was worth it. And the chance to retain a leadership status into the future is worth it.

Contrast that to this skeezbag of a pastor, who claims to pick his wife up everyday just to show her who's boss.

The amount of abuse that happens in that household and within his congregation is unfathomable, for sure. But what happens when a mayor and his staff does that to an entire metropolis? Is this not systemic abuse?

Let's look at Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

Emanuel and Byrd-Bennett are positive that the best things for Chicagoans are what Emanuel and Byrd-Bennett insist are the best things for us. And then they tell us that we will thank them for it in the future, but that their austerity plans are the best for us now. They may even try to convince us that we like their plans right now.

Byrd-Bennett, in fact, never once showed at one of the loud, cantankerous school closing hearings held throughout the city. I was involved in one, and heard from several friends and media reports in the majority of others. Parents were irate. Parents were upset. They did not want their children's schools shut down and they overwhelmingly asked for more resources, not less.

But then there's Byrd-Bennet, treating us like confused children
Everybody got it, that we really needed to close schools, that we really needed to consolidate.
Whereas Rahm has previously worked hard to attack teachers and other union workers (including those dreadful, evil librarians and bus drivers) as being shiftless and out of touch - as being enemies of the public rather than members of it, at least Byrd-Bennett had the good sense to stay out of it, at least in public. And now that she's been so far removed from public that she doesn't even show up in public, she decides that we're gonna need a corrective.

So she pictures parents as being pliable, compliant, willing to listen to her suggestion/ultimatum: That we need to close down schools (which we don't; it will not save money in the long or short run). And, according to her account, that's what we all learned. Even as it wasn't.

How does she document this since she wasn't there? She has binders full of parents.*

She who tried to ban the graphic novel Persepolis from the libraries and classrooms of Chicago Public Schools. High Schools like Lane Tech, one of the consistently top-ranked schools in the city. But then she slightly retracted, saying it was too mature for seventh graders. The same graphic novel on coming of age in Revolutionary Iran that is stocked in the YAL section of my local library - without adult supervision?

As Kenzo Shibato put it:

Persepolis is the story of a young girl growing up during the Islamic revolution in Iran. She is an inquisitive girl who speaks truth to power and refuses to believe the lies of a tyrannical government. She suffers censorship and austerity at the hands of powerful ideological bureaucrats.
Maybe it hits a little too close to home for CPS.

And he has the audacity to pretend that he knows perfectly well about raising children in poverty and the temerity to blame parents - when he's not blaming teachers - for the failure of kids in the classroom? 

“The real problem is not just the education of our children,” he said. “We have parents that can’t be parents.
“We have too many kids, literally, from a broken home.”
The mayor said the city is making headway in connecting parents to their kids’ academic success, pointing to an initiative sponsored by Walgreens that rewards parents with $25 gift cards for picking up their child’s report card.

Tell me in what ways he doesn't sound like Mitt Romney here?* Oh yeah, he's willing to "give free stuff" to parents who pick up report cards (despite the fact that many just can't get out of work in time to pick up report cards regardless of a gift card). 

Sure Rahm, some parents of school children need to be dressed down for not taking responsibility for their children's well-being. But by people who know what they're going through. Not by some silverspoonin', North Shore, Austerity-promoting, anti-working poor mayor closing schools in our neighborhoods. Not only do you and can you not know what those parents are honestly going through that they can't or choose not to be at every meeting, you don't even listen to the ones who do involve themselves to the breaking point, who show up, who put in the time and volunteer, who know very well the cost of shutting down their children's schools or their neighboring schools. Who vigorously and pointedly protested and yet were dismissed like cantankerous children. What would make the already-beyond-taxed think that you'd be ready to do anything for them anyway, that things will go great for them if those who have been applying by all the rules can't even catch a break in your system?

This is not the first time Rahm's been to this rodeo, though. Shortly before, while visiting the West Side to introduce some new plan of reshuffling police officers in high-crime areas, he offered that it wasn't as much the job of the police to shut down crime as it was the job of community members. Rather than encouraging partnership, though, he is actually shutting down one of the only resources that has effectively connected community members and their beat cops, CAPS. Which means that the resources that we have to fight the effects of poverty and crime (in the form of working community schools or programs that connect police officers with the neighborhoods that they are often estranged from), as little as they are, are actually being taken away from us during the times when we most need them.

And you have the audacity to tell us your plans for us are for our own good? The obnoxiousness to carry us over your shoulders until we stop our temper tantrums? That's how you treat us?

And we're supposed to accept that, Chicagoans, as being better for us. But we know better than that. We're smart and aware. And grown-ass folks to boot.

*There are several other ways that Rahm and his administration remind me of Romney. Romney said in that meeting in a West Philadelphia school that classroom size doesn't affect performance, hinting that more students per class should be all right in an overly-crowded system. Guess what other non-educators with children in small classes have been saying such terrible nonsense?

Friday, March 15, 2013


I can't get this story out of my head. For another rundown of the White Guy Yells at Black Guy Questioning Why There Aren't Any Black People at the Major Conservative Convention of the Year and Gets the Black Man Pushed Out, check DailyKos here. The man's question is, of course, a canard. If he really was curious all he would need to do is check out video and transcripts from prior years at CPAC. People of Color are not welcome there. Largely, neither are women. (For more proof from today, check out this charmer here). But the point of asking questions isn't necessarily out of curiosity as it is provocation. In a zone where minorities and women do not feel safe, provocation is a good thing. 

But what stuck with me among many, many other concerns was this insistence by the Arguing White Man that the Questioning Black Man isn't "Black." No, to AWM and other White Supremacists, the ability to label oneself is reserved for White Males. These same people who will argue that Obama cannot be Black, he is "Half-Black, Half-White" - despite the fact that he claims his Blackness. The same people who spent a good century arguing that a person who has a great-great grandparent of African descent is immediately qualified as Negro. The same people who had associated violence with a Spanish name for a color and are angry they are not allowed to use that term anymore.

The same people who try to apply the adjective "illegal" to human beings who are, in turn, dehumanized, detained under inhumane conditions, and deported under anti-family measurements. Yet many of these same people have the audacity to use the term "pro-life" on themselves. The same people who love to talk of dividing people into two groups: Good, Law Abiding Citizens and Criminals. Only the Criminals (or the "mentally insane") would do something bad with a gun. Only the Criminals would or could rape a woman. Only the Criminals are suspicious and would steal from Good, Law-Abiding Citizens (they obviously don't know how banking works). Only the Criminals don't obey the law at every time and therefore have something to fear from the police. Essentially, even criminal behavior has been racialized. Or, in another perspective, non-whites have been criminalized.

But only they can tell us when and how to identify ourselves. Being mixed-race, I'm not cool with that. Nobody else gets to tell me who I am after I've been ostracized from every club there is for not being "pure" enough.

But being human, I'm also not cool with that.

Why is anyone?

Saturday, March 09, 2013

The Racist, Classist Failure of a Public Schools System (Schools in Crisis I)

A few things seem obvious to me as I sink my teeth into trying to understand the behavior of the official City of Chicago (the politicians) towards its own public school system. For this edition (the first of several on Chicago Public Schools and its racist, classist, anti-worker, poverty-enhancing displacement of students and closings of resources), I'm going to look at the forest. And the outlay of the forest from a widespread and historical view says a lot about City Hall's priorities. And despite the best Orwellian attempts at manipulating language, the powers-that-be at City Hall and the Chicago Public Schools, clearly, are not thinking of the children.

And that's the problem. The primary priority isn't to aid  or mature or set students on a course for success. I don't think they're trying to fail them, either. It's just that the students that are in the crossfires are looked upon as cannon fodder. They choose these schools because they figure it will be easier to push them around because they're already on the margins anyway. 

It's nothing less than racism and classism. The same kind of racism and classism that has been institutionalized in the industrial North since Ford made his cities for White and Black workers around Detroit and since the Chicago Housing Authority was pushed by Daley, Sr., to segregate between white and and "encroaching" black citizens. Not to mention the redlining, the highways, the so-called urban renewal projects of the University of Chicago, the buffer area that protected the 1st Ward's white residents from the growing black population. The fact that King said he'd never approached the type of racism he encountered in Chicago.

And then decades upon decades of disinvestment from, marginalization of, and criminalization of the black population (as is seen in our War on Drugs that disproportionately affects black males at rates of nearly twenty-to-one in Chicago in terms of police harassment, arrests, and sentencing, with much stiffer fines and imprisonments tending to go towards people of color when they are charged) leads us to today's situation. It's a tale that can probably be best overseen with maps.

Map courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times

The map here (that we showed on the topic of guns and race in Chicago) shows an outline of where murders in Chicago have happened in one year. Just one year. Notice that there are huge swaths of areas largely unaffected by homicidal violence - and others where streets are overrun by it. This isn't a sign of moral failure of the population - but of moral failure of City Hall and of a society that allows for and supports racism and economic apartheid.

Notice the trends, again.

Map courtesy of Horizon Mapping (which is another issue for another day, but...)
Look familiar?

Check out the map of schools that have been closed down over the last ten years (off site. Sorry) 

Now look at the map of the elementary schools on the chopping block for closing. (If somebody could teach me how to search googlemaps for these images and bring them here, much obliged)

Now, if those schools were closed down for better schools, there may be something happening here. But they weren't. They were closed down for the same reason this next wave of schools will be closed down: To make way for privatized public schools with non-union and lower-paid teachers (charter schools). Not all charter schools are evil, but then again, not every person working in City Hall is evil either. The overall effect of charter schools, on the other hand? That's what we'll get into later. 

But for now, recognize that the goal is to take money and wages from the workers and give them to the wealthy and connected through the process of privatizing public schools. The fact that it's happening and negatively affects black and poor neighborhoods is an after-thought to City Hall. The fact that - once again - thousands of black and poor students will once again be displaced, and put in harm's way (traveling through several gang territories) while traveling further to other underresourced schools for the whims of the powerful is a price to pay, according to downtown. The fact that hundreds upon hundreds of students with special needs will have to get acclimated to new schools and new teachers and further be robbed of their agency and decisions as to how their lives are affected is of little consequence for the heads at Chicago Public Schools, the bosses at City Hall, and their monied friends with benefits.

And that is evil. Unmistakable and unpardonable social evil.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Sunday Billy Sunday

It was kinda odd to read about this trendy little cocktail spot in (one of) my neighborhood(s) named after Billy Sunday, the famous prohibitionist/fire-and-brimstone evangelist/baseball player from the turn of the 20th Century.

Of course, like the neighborhood itself – Logan  Square – the name has a way-too-big hipster/ironic quotient. A place that sells liquor going by a character name-checked in Frank Sinatra's "My Kinda Town" as the guy who couldn't shut down the nightlife during Prohibition.

Prohibition for Sunday, the converted ex-alcoholic-turned-evangelist, may have been his only social work - and it wasn't necessarily a bad one. Not well-thought out, of course, in that it was coercive and treated the addictive object, but not the addicts themselves. But then again, the effects of unchecked alcoholism are coercive on societies and on the more vulnerable, so I can't blame people for having decided that the best way to fight the effects of alcoholism is by making alcohol illegal.

To suggest Billy Sunday was a bully and used his stage and acclaim in Chicago as a bully pulpit is to miss a much wider picture of him. It may be true of the effects, but it misses why he thought such things were necessary. And that is because Billy was much like contemporary Evangelicalism: very, very gnostic. And proud of it.

This is the Billy Sunday who would lead spiritual revivals by calling men and women to repent of their sins, come to the altar and ask Jesus to forgive them. With this action, he would proclaim:

"Now you can go out into the street and walk in front of a bus. And that would be the best thing to ever happen to you because you would die perfect and live forever with Jesus!"

The purpose of gnostic Christianity is to die and go to heaven. There is no heaven on earth. There is no hell on earth. Earth - and the body and everything physical - is a mere ladder, a resting place, a waiting room, an station where we expectantly twiddle out thumbs anticipating the Glory Train. The rest of the world can burn, and will. Just try to save as many people by bludgeoning them with scary words about their eternal damnation while you can.

That's gnostic Christianity in a nutshell. And it prioritizes individual over social, the powers-that-be over the oppressed, the here-and-now over sustainability. It expects heaven. It doesn't participate in bringing heaven to earth. For heaven is for the Christians only, according to gnostic Christianity. And if we brought it here, what's the purpose of an afterlife?

To read more about the gnosticism that has infected Conservative Christianity in the US - and therefore the world - read my book: Shout It from the Rooftops. $5.50 for print. $2.99 for Kindle.

Do it for heaven. Because getting hit by a bus just isn't worth it.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Filibluster - or - Whose Freedom?

Yesterday was Backwards Day. It must have been. During Rand Paul's filibuster related to Obama administration drone policies to extrajudicially target, strike, and execute US citizens, Congress Democrats - the political wing of the Left, or as close to it as we have in the States - were silent. Meanwhile, the Twitters were abluff - ABLUFF I say! - with unmitigated leftist support for Rand Paul, who was labeled "courageous" for his approach.

It should have been the other way around. Washington is the place to make odd political pals. Washington is the city of pragmatism and political expediency. If political liberals and political conservatives can agree that a specific policy area is immoral - for whatever the reason - this would be a place to do it without equivocation. There is no need for a statement to the effect of: While Congressperson X is vile and decrepit and immoral on 95% of issues and while I distrust X's reasons for standing in agreement with me on this issue...

There is no need for such statements because Washington is a place to get things done. Not a place for testing ideas. Not a place for integrity.

With even the Tea Party decrying military reach and most wars, I don't know what Democrats are afraid of when it comes to drones and the Military Industrial Complex. Who are they now afraid of that they go out of their way to grandstand and advocate anything explosive?

Liz Cheney? Michael Bay?

Democrats do not want to upset their central Autobot/Union demographic

So shame on the Democrats for being shown as the unconcerned loyal politicians they are. Grow some effing balls, dammit! You can't claim to be the Party of the People if you're okay with wars and overlooking the very basic constitutional rights that protect citizens from undue legal judgments - less alone allow them to be executed without a proper judge, jury, or legal defense team.

Instead, we've had to rely on Rand Paul to speak up in this area. And that's troubling not just because he is a Republican, or of the Tea Party. No, it's troubling because Rand Paul is deeply, deeply troubling. And, to be honest, more scary than a flying robot killing machine.

Rand Paul said he'd strike out parts of the Civil Rights Act that have to do with businesses serving people of color. And called his open opposition to key parts of the CRA - which he calls an issue of "controlling property" - an "obscure issue."
Rand Paul tried to distort to discredit the Americans with Disabilities Act
Rand Paul openly opposed the Violence Against Woman Act
Rand Paul attacks not only national environmental regulations - saying that such regulation should be handled by the state governments, which, incidentally are more in line with the dominant industries of their area - but also pretty much all environmental regulation .
Rand Paul's father is an unmitigated Slavery Apologist who had blatant White Supremacist campaign letters coming from his office.
Rand Paul wants to cut spending pretty much everywhere, except for Medicare. Because that would hurt good, honest, hard-working doctors (like himself).
And then there's his and his father's direct connections with campaigners who stomp on female protester's heads and are in charge of directly racist organizations.
Rand Paul is in no way distancing himself from his father, but is - actually without the charm - committed to furthering the very disastrous racist, classist, misogynist, and ableist policies that his father built his reputation on.

So now I'm disturbed by the Prophetic Left who praise Rand Paul for his "bold stance" on drone strikes against American citizens but neglect to mention that Paul seeks to erode if not eradicate what little liberties and protections women, minorities, disabled people, workers, and the poor have from the government. Aren't these the very issues that are sacred to us?

And don't give me the bullocks that the states will be better equipped to deal with their local populations than the central government. It hasn't happened; it won't happen anytime soon. That is why we needed the ADA, the ACA, and the CRA.

He can say that he opposes the War on Drugs that unfairly and disproportionately affects people of color, but that doesn't give him a pass. It doesn't mean he isn't a racist. In fact, we must ask, every single time a Rand Paul decides to speak out on behalf of constitutional rights and liberties: Whose rights are being sought? Whose liberties are we protecting?

It disturbs me because the PL are the very people who do not need to kowtow, who do not need to compromise, who can hold the DNC accountable without hurrahing racists like Rand Paul as some sort of hero. The fact is that I don't trust Rand Paul on anything. And any person of color aware of Rand Paul's positions has every reason to distrust anything embraced or led by him.

After all

So forgive me if I'm not AS concerned about the remote possibility of American citizens being killed extrajudiciously WHEN IT'S ALREADY HAPPENING. This isn't a mere overreach of federal government - this is institutional racism and classism. This is the protecting of American business interests - same as ever. And if Rand Paul can't seem to understand that, then we have other major issues here.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

White Christian Males and the Good News of Equality

Let us clarify what we mean when we talk about equality. Because conservatism is based on the idea that some deserve and others don't, that those on top should stay on top and those in the bottom need to stay there, it does a pretty bang-up job of disseminating false information concerning equality - as it does about the word "freedom." Equality doesn't mean that each person gets the same stuff. It also doesn't mean that each person is treated exactly alike. Equality means that each person - and each grouping of people - has the same opportunity and is treated with the dignity of people who have lives, experience, value, and worth that are different than the next person's. Not less, different*.

So when one claims to not believe in equality, one fights against the idea that all human beings are human beings. The Christian who fights against equality doesn't accept as doctrinally central the idea that all humans are created in the image of God - male and female. He fights against the idea of a God of impartiality, but rather serves a version of God that is on the side of the status quo - of Rome, of Babylon, of Egypt - over and against the slaves and exiled and oppressed subjects. This is the very first thought that Church of No People brings to mind here (and in his clarification here which, to be honest, I don't think is all that clarifying) - and is thoroughly reinforced by a bad and quite oppressive interpretation of the Pauline letters. All of which ignore the calls and strains of justice evident within the Bible - from Moses to Samuel and Nathan to Isaiah and Amos and Micah to Jesus and the disciples to John the Revelator, James and - gasp! - Paul.

The very same Paul who told a slave master to accept his slave (read: property) as his own kin. The same Paul who upturned the Greek status quo by equalizing slaves and freeborn, males and females.

In his proof-texting, Matt seems to misunderstand that humility is a route to justice, as it causes those with power and privilege (for example, Jesus) to humble themselves to a point of being allied with the oppressed ( for example, the poor). Rather, in his interpretation of humility, humbling is a weapon against the marginalized and oppressed. Against survivors. Against single mothers. Against the poor. Against trans* people. Matt needs to understand, without apology, that those who have already been humbled by their marginialization do not need to be further humbled.

Furthermore, Matt makes it apparent that the poor, that women, that people of color, that GLBTQ, those with disabilities etc, etc, do not get to have agency. That he gets to define what injustices are for other people and - as with most injustices concerning people in power and their apologists - that the issue at hand will be addressed at the opportune moment. To which Martin Luther King replied, "It is always the right time to do the right thing."

Anti-Chen Protest Day 32 - Million Men March
"Go home and be humble!" is NOT the Gospel

Some other issues with this post (and I know I'm only scratching the surface) that I largely tweeted upon first reads:

I'm not sure that every feminist believes in equality. First because feminism is a large label used for many movements - but most believe that women should be treated as fully human and complex people. The idea of equity between men and women (for starters) would probably not fit with a few on the extreme margins of feminism. To be honest, there is much inequity in the center of feminism (where affluent white women's concerns are brought to bear in affluent white women's voices as de facto women's rights), but at least the idea is that men and women should be equally respected in matters of justice. So, while there are several definitions/manifestations of "feminism," that doesn't mean you get to claim your own for your own self when it is contrary to the spirit of feminism.

And if you are a male and do not believe in equality, you probably most definitely are NOT a feminist.

If you claim to be a feminist because you "protect" and shelter your wife, your argument is invalid.

Further, if you think that love means putting others on a pedestal, you misunderstood "Love your neighbor AS yourself."

If you think the good news, the Gospel, is somehow antithetical to the message of equality and justice, then you should learn what it means to love justice and walk humbly with the Lord, dear white male Christian.

Finally, white males don't get to preach at marginalized, telling them they should "lay down their lives" more than they already are.

I'll be adding the voices of other bloggers on this issue and in relation to these specific blogs as I find them.
Sarah Moon: On Equality, Humility, and Privilege
Dianna Anderson: Heavy Words and Co-Opted Meanings

*I know that conservative mouthpieces like Limbaugh like to make fun of "liberals" (in whatever way that term is meant, usually pejoratively) for that phrase - but that speaks to the lack of conservative imagination. Conservatism doesn't want to think of people and cultures as being worthy of respect, so it defames even the notions of such whenever it gets the chance. In conservatism, White, Male and Monied are best - everything else is inferior.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mockery and Shamed Visibleness

When I was a teenager, I found out that my mother had bipolar disorder. Found out the hard way. And it was devastating. I'll spare you most of the details. Except one: What an ass I was to her.

Unmitigated, foolish, selfish, immature, impatient, ignorant ass. She, suffering untold, unspeakable mental and emotional anguish. Something she couldn't control; something she couldn't figure out; something it takes a bit of courage to make it through. Me, the "good son," not able to figure this out; believing that emotions are something that one controls, and believing that moms are made for their children.

Snap out of it, already!

That's what I told her. Because I didn't believe her feelings were tied to reality. Because I didn't believe the sickness was as real as a, y'know real sickness. Like cancer. Or a cold.

Some years later those words came back to haunt me like an avenging spectre when someone close to me said them to me during the depths of my depression. And I felt the horror, and the hurt, and the guilt and shame and helplessness.

I thought of this long after my initial shock and anger at the Onion for making a full-fledged "comedic" verbal sexual assault at a nine year old African American female actor (warning: TRIGGERS), when the next day I found that several white males were saying, You don't know how hard it is to do comedy. You should allow comedians to do comedy without being offended. Your offense isn't real. Your offense is coming from a place of privilege. Here, find something REAL to get offended about. Who we really should be concerned about are the writers (and, by extension all white males) who will not be free to make fun of little black girls anymore. And you, you should be ashamed of having feelings and feeling the way you do about the things you do. Patriarchy is dead; there is no sickness here. Be real. Snap out of it already.
Quvenzhané Wallis deserved this?

 Twitter was full of such asshattery.

From a media columnist for the New York Times:

To an activist for gay rights:

Or a senior writer for the Huffington Post:

I'm not including angry responses sent to me by a clearly frustrated 12 year old boy and/or Men's Rights Activist*. These are more-or-less progressive/liberal voices working for progressive/liberal media. Talking about the "oppression" caused by reacting in anger/frustration to horrible names. When those taunts are reflective of and public manifestations of sexist and racist (and ablist/homphobic/transphobic/ageist) put-downs and marginalizations all over. So, yes, defending the comments or attempting to silence those who speak out against such put-downs is an act of marginalization. It very much so continues the keeping-in-line and oppression of non-cis gendered / white / able-bodied / able-minded / middle-and-upper class and/or male persons.

Yesterday, while traveling with my own grade school-aged daughter, we were joking around. And I was trying to teach her how to do the thing where we make exaggerated motions and cop each other's voice. "I'm Jason and I..." And I tried to be mindful and not hurt her. And I think I may have succeeded, but maybe I pushed an emotional button - if not for her, then for me. Because then she told me a "secret." It was ludicrous and silly and preposterous. But her secret, even though it wasn't true and we both knew that we both knew it wasn't true, was still in the realm of secret. And, as such, she warned me not to blurt it out. Of course I wouldn't. But I egged her along so much that she thought that I actually did, out loud, for passersby to hear.

And she cried heartbroken tears. And I felt like a mighty jerk. As well I should. And I explained to her that I was sorry. That I didn't say her secret (you know how you expect something so shocking to come that you shut down your senses, so you may not even experience it, just the expectation? I think it was like that), and I didn't mean to hurt her. I didn't want her to cry. The reasons for her tears in this case may not have been what she thought they were, but her reasons for crying were. And her feelings sure were. They are real - they had a right to feel pushed and violated. I did push her, my precious one. I was being an ass for the sake of "comedy."

But my daughter shouldn't have to be subjected to degrading insults by infantile men getting their jollies by teasing girls.

Not just because she's my daughter. That's what makes it personal, for sure. As does the fact that joking bullies helped to make high school a repressed memory for me. But moreso because she's a human being. A girl, a child, a female. A human being and worthy of dignity and self-respect. And:

Grown men telling me that I shouldn't be insulted by such "jokes" are infantile assholes.

I'd also encourage you to read Grace from Are Women Human's response here.
*Apparently, there's a lot of overlap.