Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Workplace That Works...?

Dear readers,

I seem to have hit a point in my life where my values must be compromised, and I do indeed feel as though I am selling out. My father told me: "It's not as if you are prostituting yourself," but honestly I feel as though I am. Why do I feel this way? Two words [well, one word that is two hyphenated words]: Wal-Mart.

That's correct, I have become an employee of an establishment that I often rail against, and honestly I feel bad about it [the whole becoming the employee part, not the railing]. The whole irony of the situation, and guilty feeling that came with it, didn't hit me until my orientation when the co-manager said: "Now we'll watch a video that offers an argument against all of the anti-Wal-Mart people out there," and I realized - I am one of those people.

And I wonder, at what point can we draw the line between our values and our need to subsist? Wal-Mart is the only place that called me back for a job offer, and I need the money. This mostly comes from the fact that I live in a small town, where jobs are scarce, especially with the economy the way it is. This also leads to the fact that I have to shop at Wal-Mart to buy things I need unless I want to drive to Columbia to buy something, and that's a far way away.

The fact of the matter is, to be anti-big business in a small town, or really in general, requires a lot of money. Funny how that works. Unless you are willing to completely go "off the grid," so to speak, it is next to impossible to do everything with independently owned stores and organic foods. All-in-all: It's not cheap to be an activist...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Paying at the Pump

Hey, it's been a while, not having my laptop has been rough, but it will be back in two weeks (hopefully).

As most of you know, gas is ridiculously expensive, and a story in today's New York Times, with this wonderful prompt: “'The psychology has changed,” said Sara Johnson, an economist at Global Insight. “People have recognized that prices are not going down and are adapting to higher energy costs. It’s a capitulation.'”

It makes you wonder, I figured out a while ago that gas wasn't going to go down, so why is it only now that people are figuring it out? More than that, it makes us need a more viable mode of transportation, and air fare is out of the question, especially with the whole American Airlines fiasco (of course that had to be the weekend I was flying).

The article points out that America is still the cheapest with gas, and has been for a long time, with France paying about $7.70 per gallon. The difference: Europe has trains, and they go everywhere. If you've ever tried to book anything on Amtrak, trying to get from point A to point B on it is a pain in the ass, to say the least. So the question is: Will the price of gas cause America to reexamine Amtrak, or possibly create a new, better system? I, for one, am all for a train system.

Also, will the spike in gas prices also create a friendlier place for cycles and pedestrians? I feel very awkward whenever I ride my bike in the roads and try to stay on the side streets. One of my favorite pictures (which of course I can't find) is a poster from the City of Berlin that shows how much needless space is taken up by personal cars. Perhaps this will also slow down suburban sprawl that has taken over the country; perhaps we will see less of the same hideous tract housing sprouting up outside of urban areas.

The gas crunch is a pain, but maybe some good will come out of this spike in prices, and America will look for solutions on public transportation, housing, and the environment. I want to end on one of my favorite lines from the song 'Self Evident' by Ani DiFranco:

here's to our last drink of fossil fuels
may we vow to get off of this sauce
shoo away the swarms of commuter planes
and find that train ticket we lost
cuz once upon a time the line followed the river
and peeked into all the backyards
and the laundry was waving
the graffiti was teasing us
from brick walls and bridges
we were rolling over ridges
through valleys
under stars
i dream of touring like duke ellington
in my own railroad car
i dream of waiting on the tall blonde wooden benches
in a grand station aglow with grace
and then standing out on the platform
and feeling the air on my face

Friday, May 9, 2008


While I don't plan on this blog functioning as a log of my day-to-day existence, I would just like to point out two things:

1) Today is the last day of finals! In a few hours I will be done with this semester! *hooray*

2) My ability to get on the interwebs will be limited starting next week, as my laptop is broken and I have to get it fixed and I am no longer going to be living right next door to a computer lab. So for all four of you who read this, posts will probably be few and far between.

Oh yeah, and I just figured out how to make it so anyone can comment, so please, start commenting now. :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

On Life, Liberty and Justice

Three weighty issues to be sure, and I don't pretend to think that I can properly talk about them, but here it goes.

This week, a death row inmate from North Carolina was released after it was discovered that he had inadequate defense, the third in the state in the last six months (Story Here). What the article basically boils down to is that poor people are more likely to receive incompetent legal help than those who have money, but this should be a no brainer, right? Now, I'm not saying that all pro bono lawyers are incompetent, or that every poor person is charged of crimes unfairly, I am just saying that justice cannot exist in a society in which services that are essential to existing in a society are provided in a free-market.

"Knowledge is power," this axiomatic statement is no truer than when it is applied to the law. In this equation, in our late capitalistic society, "money is power" as well, thus, "money is knowledge" insofar as you can afford the schooling to gain the knowledge yourself or so that you can hire someone to know things for you. The realm of the knowledge of law is one that is denied to poor people, and this is part of the matrices of power that keep poor people poor and in jail. Anyone who says that justice can exist in a free-market is simply uniformed, because those who have money can get out of (practically) everything. We see this everyday, but people don't want to do anything about it, and it makes me so mad. Legal help should be something that is guaranteed to all people, and it should be equal.

And of course, I feel the same way about health care; health care in a free-market economy basically says "your life is only worth as much as you can pay." Life and liberty are things that are supposed to be an integral part of American identity, why then is it denied to so many people?

Of course, I realize that their are problems with universalizing health care and legal services, and that my ideals are Utopian, but I think that they are things we should strive for.

Now, moving on to the death penalty. I am staunchly against punishment by death because I don't feel it accomplishes much of anything. First of all, I think it would be worse to be confined to a cell for years, knowing you will be behind bars the rest of your life as opposed to just ending it. Second, if the person was innocent and you killed them, then you robbed them of their life. We need to get away from the "eye for an eye" mode of justice, and focus not only on personal rehabilitation but also on public rehabilitation. Like I said earlier, our justice system is a perpetual one, say a person messes up early in life and is convicted of a felony and is released later from prison. If they can't get a job because of their felony, then what are they going to do? More than likely turn to crime, because you have to eat somehow. Those who are convicted of crimes are otherized, one act becomes an identity and they are stigmatized for life. If someone has served their debt to society, then that should be it, we cannot continually keep punishing people for crimes they have already been punished for.

Obviously a lot of this blog is inspired by Angela Davis, who I had the privilege to see speak last February. One of the most inspiring things of her speech was how we need to not allow the punishment of one person to be a band-aid on a bigger social problem, we need to address the problem first and the individual second.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Everyone, celebrate America's habit of grabbing any foreign holiday that could result in getting drunk by the end of the night. Just don't forget, barely anyone in Mexico actually celebrates this holiday!

So get drunk and remember a battle in a province of Mexico that you've never even heard about!

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo (In St. Paul...)

The Wright Stuff

*This blog is dedicated to T. "Fucking" T. and B.K.*

On the website of The New York Times today (or at least at 1 am today), one of the front page stories is about how the views of Rev. Wright has not affected voters' opinion of Sen. Obama. However, it has definitely affected my opinion of Obama, insofar that it has made me respect him less.

Most of Wright's opinions are opinions that I can agree with (with the exception of the more radical ones, especially that AIDS was a government conspiracy to kill Black people, mainly for the flaw that it affected the gay male community first, I also don't like his jabs at the Clintons). The buzz surrounding the statements made by Rev. Wright only demonstrates the ways in which racism is systematically ignored by the democrats. White liberals consistently want to push the agenda that racism ended with the civil rights movement because they don't want to believe that they could possibly be racist. Anything that implies that White America is racist causes White Americans to stutter "No I'm not", avoiding the problem rather than facing racism head on.

This is what makes figures like Wright so incendiary, they are not willing to support the idea that racism is over. I believe that this is the path that Obama is taking, indeed I think he is the trophy prize of White liberal America, a big sign that says: "WE CAN'T BE RACIST WE NOMINATED A BLACK GUY TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT!!!!" All the while ignoring how lower class black people are oppressed in our society. I feel that if Obama wins it will be because of his race rather than in spite of it. And I have mixed feelings about that, on the one hand it is high time to have a person of color in office (but the same can be said about a woman in office in the case of Hilary), but I don't think that someone should be voted in just for that reason alone. I also don't think that one person can be used as atonement for centuries of abuse.

I also think that by Obama ignoring Wright's statements about 9/11 will also be costly, because it just shows how much Americans are willing to ignore the truth. Terrorism does not happen in a vacuum. I am not trying to justify terrorism, but you cannot deny that the reason that they hate us is because we have fucked around with their government and stolen their natural resources. The events of 9/11 were a tragedy, and we need to honor those who died by ending the violence, not inciting more. I think that America would be the better country if instead of seeking vengeance, we sought peace.

By distancing himself from Wright, Obama is refusing to tackle the problems that he is in a unique position to tackle. Not only does he refuse to deal with race issues, he openly denies that they exist: "There is no white America," Barack Obama has said. "There is no black America. There is no Latino America. There is no Asian America. There is just the United States of America." At first I didn't understand the critique of Obama not being "black enough", but now I understand, he is just going to be the token for White America. The Black man who gets up and says "There is no racism problem in this country," and appease white guilt.

I don't necessarily like Rev. Wright's tactics insofar as I don't think you should use religion to counter a social problem, but that stems from my standpoint as an atheist, so I guess I am pretty unfairly biased in that regard. And I can't deny that religion is an effective way to get people to listen, I just don't like it. Moreover, Wright needs to stop being so aggressive in his tactics, at least in dealing with White America. The polemic is a person who rarely changes minds. However, I think it's time for America to stop being so shocked and offended and to start listening. Rather than dismiss Wright as a radical, actually look at what he is saying; sure some of it might be out there, but a lot of it is true.

All in all, however, this whole debacle has lead to probably the funniest thing in the world: Rush Limbaugh calling someone a "hatemonger".


For more info:

Obama Denounces Statements of His Pastor as 'Inflammatory' [NY Times]

In Poll, Obama Survives Furor, but Fall is the Test [NY Times]

Obama the Inevitable [Spiegel]

Repost/Revision: Meditations on Silence

*This is a repost/revision of a blog entry I did for my blog on MySpace and Facebook - April 25 2005*

As some of you may or may not know, today is the "National Day of Silence," which is where you are not supposed to talk to show solidarity to those who have been the victims of hate crimes against gay people. It is a big deal across the nation for many people. I, for one, can't stand it.

I hardly think that refusing to talk shows any sort of support for the queer rights movement, rather I think it is a counterproductive event. This is mostly because those who oppress queer people would like nothing more than for queers to be silent. From a Foucauldian perspective, not talking about something is what takes power away from it. People like Jesse Helms actually do more for the queer rights movement by talking about it, because talking about it gives it power.

Last week's issue of Truman's paper, The Index, had an issue about our drag show and coming out in general (I was one of the interviewees - Story Here). This week's issue had a letter to the editor by someone who did not care for the article:

TruLife photos of drag show were printed in poor taste

In regards to the front cover of your TruLife section on April 17, what were you thinking? Who did you have in mind when you were printing that page? Definitely not the majority of this campus! I know the Index probably is one of the most liberal papers on a college campus but let's get serious. I don't care how liberal you people are, I don't want to see that crap shoved in my face every single time you print a freakin' paper! GET A CLUE, and realize most people in this world can't stand crap!

Reading things like this make me laugh, honestly it's so hard to believe people like this still exist, especially people who attend college. So why the anger? As my father always says, "Anger is a secondary emotion," and I think it's pretty safe to say that this guy's anger stems from fear. This guy obviously is scared, scared of what I don't know. I haven't been able to understand the homophobe mentality, my general view is: if it doesn't hurt me I'm not scared of it. I don't go around beating up straight people, nor do any of my gay friends, so I don't quite understand what they are afraid of.

I guess it's because by talking about other sexualities, it calls into question the "fixedness" of heterosexuality. If, as Judith Butler posits, heterosexuality (and I paraphrase here) continously tries to reproduce itself and fails, this is most brought out when other sexualities are brought out. Queerness is the failure of straightness to be the only sexuality. I, and I hope at least most other queer people, don't view myself as agonistic towards heterosexuality; it's just another point on the contiuum of sexuality.

Thus comes the practical part of this blog, I think that it is important to talk, not be silent. This guy is scared, and thus angry, because he doesn't understand that gender bending and same-sex desire does not exist to threaten his opposite-sex desire. The only way to fix this is to open up a dialogue; now, he probably wouldn't want someone like me to start talking to him, but this is what our straight allies are for! This is a movement that must be done by queers of all sexualities (and yes, I include heterosexuals in that), and it must be done with love, not anger. Anger does not win minds and hearts, it only strengthens negative resolves.

I also take issue with things that revolve around one day, because they present the false illusion that if you do something for that you can do something for one day and that "takes care of it." I know that the people who created these days probably don't view it that way, but that is the way that many people feel. They get rallied up for one day of "doing something" but then fail to the other 364 days of the year.

So rather than be silent today, why don't you change someone's mind? Start a conversation that will go on for more than just one day.

Welcome Comrades!

I suppose that this should function as the introduction to my blog and that I should begin by describing my thoughts on blogging in general.

For starters, I think that blogging is interesting in that it is a method of self-disclosure that allows people to present themselves to people that they may never encounter in real life. Which makes me ask the question: "Does cyberspace constitute a new sort of social space?" Whatever "me" that I chose to present to you is all that you can judge as truth. In this sense, it appears that the Internet proves the notion that the self is entirely constructed. Indeed, if I were to tell you that I was a 50-year-old female-to-male transsexual and you never had reason to doubt me, then is that what I am? If I conceive of myself as something other than "what I am in real life" and present that self in this blog, then which is the truth? Is there a true self, or are there multiple selves that are constantly being re/constructed/created/changed? I would definitely push for the latter.

Which moves us to the second half of this post, which is the "me" that I am going to present to "you". I am an undergraduate student in University, where I am majoring in Communication and English, with minors in Women & Gender Studies and Philosophy. My plans are to go to graduate school and pursue cultural studies, or a similar field in academia.

The purpose of this blog is to document my thoughts on academic and political issues (definitely more the former than the latter). I don't know exactly how many people will read this, hopefully at least one person will feel enlightened by at least one of my posts (or at least they won't feel like they wasted their time).

So that is my introduction, welcome and enjoy!