Thursday, November 26, 2009
No, the most depressing conversation I had on Thanksgiving wasn't my grandmother noticing my balding spot and telling me, "Joe, put your head down. I just noticed that. Did somebody hit you? Do you have a scar? It's so thin there," then proceeding to tell me what shampoo she uses to get thicker hair. The most depressing conversation I had on Thanksgiving was the following:
Aunt: Does anybody know, when is the last time the Vikings WON a Super Bowl?
(I stare blankly)
Aunt: I tried to look it up, but I couldn't find it.
Me: It will probably take you a while.
Aunt: I could only find the info back to like '67.
Me: That's around when they started having Super Bowls. But the Vikings have never won one.
Aunt: So what did they do before the Super Bowl? Just have nothing?
Me: They called it the NFL Championship.
Aunt: Oh. So when is the last time the Vikings won that?
(I blankly stare)
Me: They never won that either. Actually, they won it in '69, but then lost the Super Bowl.
Aunt: Oh. But they were in, like, three Super Bowls.
Me: Four, actually.
Aunt: Well, what team has gone the longest without winning a Super Bowl?
Me: Um, the Vikings are pretty close.
Aunt: So they're like the Chicago Cubs of football.
Aunt: Well, then it could be worse: it could be another 60 years of waiting.
Me: Did you walk out of my nightmares and into my waking life?
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
In The New Yorker, Jhumpa Lahiri writes about her father cooking rice.
From PETA, Miami Dolphin running back Ricky Williams is a vegetarian and now he has a restaurant. When I find out an athlete is a vegetarian, I start rooting for him or her.
Bam: spinach, walnuts, craisins, some sort of vinaigrette. I'll be tossing in some fresh cut green beans just because I think they're good. Simple, healthy, delicious, vegan.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
That's what I want when I read a novel: to be pulled emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually into its fictional world. I want it to engulf me, so that while reading I am virtually experiencing its world, and when I am not reading it, that world lingers with me wherever I go. Fowles succeeds.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
"You know your choice. You stay in prison, what your time calls duty, honor, self-respect, and you are comfortably safe. Or you are free and crucified. Your only companions the stones, the thorns, the turning backs; the silence of cities, and their hate."
Overdramatic, even adolescent? Perhaps. But what is real in the novel is Charles' choice. He chooses humiliation, the scorn of society, the ridicule of his age, to "escape" to his freedom. He seeks his authentic self and authentic love, and to do so requires a clear break from his social world and from respectability. And that's the choice he makes.
I can't help but take Charles' choice as a personal challenge. It is not only Victorians that can avoid authentic actions, that can hide from their own freedom, for the sake of convention to remain "comfortably safe."
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
"The festivities were high on patriotism but low on militarism, leaving out any hint of blood or fighting. For the U.S. military, the Fox broadcast was an opportunity to tell a story about its humanitarian mission in Afghanistan, to sell the war at home at a time when anything like a clear-cut military victory appears unattainable."
DVR means you can be a good parent while still devoting your full attention to a football game, or even a sitcom.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Consider this, then, one pacifist's attempt to explain to himself why these tributes to the troops disturb him.
The "Thank You" contains implicit support of the current wars
Many of the statements of thanks to the soldiers are couched in conventional language: thanks for keeping us safe, thanks for protecting our freedoms, etc. But to thank soldiers currently occupying Iraq and Afghanistan for keeping us safe/protecting our freedoms implicitly assumes that their current mission is necessary to keep us safe/protect our freedoms, and is therefore "good." Such statements of thanks, then, become more commercials for waging these wars.
Perpetual tributes for a state of perpetual warfare
Tributes to serving soldiers have been going on during NFL broadcasts at least since Thanksgiving 2001, shortly after 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan. That means that for eight years, NFL broadcasts during special occasions (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Veterans Day, etc.) have been used to pay tribute to soldiers currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. We've understood a need to pay regular tribute because we've accepted that U.S. soldiers will be occupying foreign countries for a long time.
The normalization of militarism in culture
Like toy soldiers, military video games, and wearing camouflage for style and fashion, the fusion of military tributes with our sports entertainment just further makes militarism and military values a normal, everyday part of our culture. We accept shows of military virtue as something that is ensconced in all parts of our lives--and thus we perpetuate a culture that supports military violence.
Last March, Nathan Schneider at The Row Boat suggested that
"There must be a way to honor such sacrifices as war brings out in people while abhorring the pointless insanity that occasioned it, abhorring it so completely that it can never possibly happen again."
I shared my doubts, which I think are relevant to the issue I'm exploring here:
I’m not sure. I’ve been increasingly influenced by the work of John Howard Yoder and other Christian pacifists, and I feel no need to “honor” militarism. I am compelled to abhor violence; I don’t know if I can abhor the large-scale war while honoring those carrying out the war (at any level). It seems an inconsistent position: to commit to a life of peace, yet to “honor” those who participate in the violence of war. “Honor” comes too close to glorification (whether or not that is true in the realm of ideas, it is too often true in actual practice). I think it possible that continuing to honor the people who participate in war is a significant part of perpetuating a militaristic culture, and thus goes against the desire to abhor war “so completely that it can never possibly happen again.” Stopping the honor of militarism might be a significant step toward stopping war.
So not “honor.” But sadness, sympathy, empathy, and love. Perhaps another word entirely. For those who sacrifice much, for those who lose much without ever having the choice.And at Salon, Glenn Greenwald exposes in David Brooks a common disconnect: cheerleading in support of war while calling others who commit violence "evil."