Saturday, May 8, 2010
Friday, May 7, 2010
Women wearing them, or NOT wearing them, is becoming a very big deal. People wonder if Muslim women wear veils because their men want them to, or because they want us to respect them as Muslims.
More and more, young Muslim women argue that they have the right to be what they are, and affirm their faith.
The general public (everyone who isn't Muslim), is divided. Some people loathe the full body veil as dehumanizing and oppressive. (I find it scary.) Some people feel it's an abomination from the Middle Ages. Others feel a legal ban denies Muslim women their rights as women to wear whatever they want.
There are different types of burgas. The "burka" (often spelled burqa), covers the body with mesh over the eyes; a "niqab" covers the whole body with a slit for the eyes; the "chador" covers the head and body but the face is not covered; a "haijab" covers the hair and neck.
In America, wherever the veils are seen there's discomfort. There was controversy at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Education and its branches in Boston, Worcester and Manchester, New Hampshire. The administration's new rule that banned students from wearing veils created a furor.
The college, accused of discrimination by students claiming the rule was connected to the arrest of a Muslim student suspected of planning terror attacks, finally added a "religious" exemption.
The incident was actually a minor incident. Only 2 -- just 2 of the College's 4,000 students wear burgas, but it's the first significant flare-up in the United States since 2002, when a Florida woman sued the state for refusing to allow her to wear a veil in her driver's license photo. (She appealed and lost.)
Oh dear ... is this where we're heading? Will various states make rules about veils? If so, are we going to have rules about bikinis, excessive cleavage, skinny and skinnier thongs revealing "vajayjay" (the latest Hollywood style -- wearing genital sequins), gleaming beneath tight and tighter, short and shorter skirts?
The more I learn about burgas, the more concerned I am -- not for women's rights, not for college kids being restricted by unnecessary rules -- but by walls going up, fences being nailed into the ground.
Those restrictions that immigrants are facing in Arizona, the idea that we are now identifying people but how they look is ... whoa Nelly ... we can't let that happen in America ...
Lets not start warring with immigrants, or women in veils, when we're warring with serious enemies all over the world.
Repeal that damn Arizona law! Let women wear what they choose to wear, and don't make laws they'll want to break!
Hey, I've got an idea -- Arizona cops have NOT been told stop Islamic foreigners -- tell the Mexicans, the Latino immigrants to don burgas -- niqabs, even haijabs might do the trick!
Thursday, May 6, 2010
"But it's not good for kids, Carola," I replied. "Paying them is teaching them that earning money is the most important thing in life."
"Do you think that earning money for basic living expenses is what life is all about? Even if a person tithes, donates dollars to help the poor, and pays taxes that support many of the good things in America -- is that what life is all about?"
I knew Carola didn't think so, and I certainly don't.
Research was published, saying that Texas school kids earning cash for passing exams got better grades, and in college, had better attendance -- statistics in the study showed that it helped Black students more than whites -- 10 percent were more likely to enter college, and 50 percent more likely to stick around till graduation.
The researcher who did the study for the National Bureau of Economic Research said, "It (paying kids) gives cool-minded kids an alibi for success --'I don't like math but I'm saving for an X-box.'"
That's what's bothering me, Mr. Researcher. Kids learn what life is all about from what they do and see. School opens their eyes to ideas. Discovering a new idea excites a kid, and that's IT -- it can be sports, art, teaching, writing -- or the bible, an adventure story, an historical character, a teacher, whatever ...
School days are so brief, such a small part of your life, and school is the time to look around, to dream and dare to wonder, picture, feel out what you would like to do.
If you're paid, the PAY is probably going to be what inspires you -- money becomes IT, the thing you want more than anything else.
I can't help thinking, based on my life and lives of others whom I admire, that the most important thing in life is what you do.
Attention researchers, educators, experts, and Carola -- instead of paying kids to study, use that money to pay the teachers to study, think up new ways to influence and intrigue student -- get the teachers inventing projects that'll capture their students' imaginations -- challenge the kids, get them doing more.
Doing gives you energy, and courage to do more, and more.
It gives you a powerful sense of yourself.
To do, is to be alive.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Most pundits agree the big loser is the U.S.
I don't know about you, but I am derailed when I see -- keep seeing yet another unpronounceable name -- Kyrgyzstan.
Sure, I have an atlas, and I found it. It's the bright green color on the map. And Google got me to a audio dictionary.
The NY Times educated me -- this country (5 million people) is on mountain, bordering China, bordering other unpronounceables -- Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
The mellow voice pronouncing these new names on my TV made the area sound calm, moonlight mellow, but it isn't -- nothing there is stable -- all these places need us, want American money-money-money, and U.S. protection.
Today, Kyrgyzstan is back in the news. In Bishkek, the former chief of the President's staff, Kanybek Zhoroyev, was arrested and is being held for some reason. President Bakiyev's hiding out some place in the area, that Russia and Obama arranged.
Is your head spinning? Mine is. I'm worried about Arizona stopping people who don't look like they belong in the state. And the Arizona guy trying to get a seat in the senate, and McCain, all het up, revving up a major attack on the White House's ideas about immigration.
Trying to figure out who, what, and why, I came across a picture of pretty school girls studying in Krygyzstan. (Pretty pink, and no faces -- is UN pretty to me.)
Years ago, when I was a child, I recall hearing lots of talk about "isolationist America."
There has always been a strong isolationist streak in American political life. President Washington, then Adams, then Jefferson, each of them (in different ways, for different reasons) kept us from getting entangled, and when President Madison got us involved it was almost a disaster -- so the idea of staying out of European Wars became an accepted principle for us.
(Gee, I'm still never quite sure how to pronounce or spell Al-Quaeda or Osama bin Laden.)
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
The competitive link between Leno and Letterman is more important now, and both of them seem to be aware of it -- heightening what's different about them -- Leno still emphasizing anything that's sexy, heightening whatever is said with his "married man" ruefulness, while Letterman, the opposite of rueful, is more honest these days, (wryly honest, ever since his "playing around" hit the media).
I think we, the show watchers, have changed. We're tense. There's political anger in the air. Every other news-flash is perturbing, ugly, or doomful. And bad news, sad news is repeated, revived, recapitulated -- often, day after day. News people and show hosts have to be more "up-front," down-to-earth blunt sometimes, about what they're discussing.
There's a clockwork, neater, faster pace in Leno's show that wasn't there before. He's talking faster -- he gets to the guest's repartee faster. As usual, it's up to the guest to create an extemporaneous "ha-ha, gee whiz" mood. But the feeling that the jokes and teasing are improvised isn't quite believable.
Letterman, on the other hand, is looser, more relaxed. Laughing at himself, ala Popeye the Sailor Man, he says I AM WHAT I AM. He's been connecting with guests, staff, and audience, very spur-of-the-moment, (so easily, so spur-of-the-moment, that I, who never laugh out loud, find myself actually chuckling).
They're both aging. I'm aging. Perhaps I'm overly sensitive to the changes in both of them. Jay Leno seems shorter. I was never aware of his height before -- everything about him is just a little smaller, compacted, less than what it was before. The show's gimmicks which I've never liked -- dumb ads and silly toys seem ho-hum, and the time for me to get up and get a snack.
I've never liked Letterman's supercilious "top ten" gimmick, and his gimmicky video clips might get the crew laughing in rehearsal, but I find them mostly unfunny. I don't enjoy the "help" that conductor Paul Shaffer gives Letterman, while Kevin Eubanks and Leno are good together. As for the celebrity guests --"you pays yer money, you takes yer choice."
So who wins the competition?
Before Leno became a 10:00 p.m. show, we rarely tuned in Letterman. But the new, looser Letterman has become a good way, right now it's the better way for us to end the evening.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Am I kidding? NO. The census will tell us more accurately, precisely, factually. than I can right now. But it's happening.
How whites are going to react to being a minority is already, maybe, probably why we're hearing about angry Militias -- those plain, regular, friendly Americans carrying guns to church, to PTA meetings, parties, bars, just about everywhere.
(I hope it doesn't encourage kids to tote guns to school, and inspire what happened at Columbine H.S. in Colorado.)
Actually, right now, most immigrants are still assimilating into the "melting pot" of U.S. society, as they've done for many years. Despite guns and disdainful neighbors, immigrants are managing.
I think one of the problems is that we still pay attention to group distinctions that have been burned into our brains. Most of us wouldn't dare use the slang words out loud, but we think them -- see cartoon pictures -- skin-color, noses, eyebrows for Jap, Spick, Chink, Jigaboo, Hebe, Wop.
The fact is, though we're not stuck on the idea of a single race, ethnicity or religion, any native-born white American knows that being white is better -- whites can go to any school, have any career, earn more money, live in the best neighborhood.
Everything about white is better, because white supremacy is taken for granted -- I hate the term, it sounds horribly bigoted, but isn't it a reality?
Historical tidbit -- in every naturalization act from 1790 to 1952, Congress included language stating that the aspiring citizen should be a "white person." It was part of the Immigration and Naturalizati0n Act -- the national origins section that was abolished in stages between 1952 and 1965.
Despite all the changes, the progress in civil rights issues over the past 50 years, the sense in most white people is, "this is our country, and our culture!" Even though we now have an African-American President, most of the people I know think of the minorities -- Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Mexicans, etc. -- as part of our country, but whites are the whole!
If the census bureau is right, and by 2050, whites will be a minority -- how are we going to feel?
In 2000, when white people in California were becoming the minority, the voters passed two interesting (protective), propositions -- one eliminated state sponsored affirmative action -- the other, increased measures against illegal immigration.
California politicians started being reluctant to endorse anything that would invite a backlash from non-whites. Actually the majority of individual states will probably continue to remain "majority white." Since the biggest changes are in heavily populated states like New York, probably politicians will continue to promote ideas that whites like.
I have a feeling that when whites are actually the minority, race is going to be more important than ever. And race will continue to be a defining feature of our politics,
Here's what I've observed: Even though whites are still the majority, and undoubtedly have more access to wealth and political influence, we are already acting like a threatened, aggrieved minority.
Tea Partiers, Limbaugh, Beck, Breitbart, Coulter -- no wonder they're getting more popular, more famous, louder, and uglier -- no wonder the Republicans are saying NO to everything, and some "Democrats" are tense, depressed, confused about what they want.
Let's blame it on the census. After the census is done, and out there in print -- oh my -- we're going to have a lot of other things, scary things, to worry about.