Posted by: heartsleeve | August 19, 2008

More of the same?

It occurs to me that John McCain is as intellectually shallow as our current president. When asked what his Christian faith means to him, his answer was a one-liner. “It means I’m saved and forgiven.” Great scholars have wrestled with the meaning of faith for centuries. McCain then retold a story we’ve all heard a hundred times about a guard in Vietnam drawing a cross in the sand.

Asked about his greatest moral failure, he cited his first marriage, which ended in divorce. While saying it was his greatest moral failing, he offered nothing in the way of explanation. Why not?

Throughout the evening, McCain chose to recite portions of his stump speech as answers to the questions he was being asked. Why? He has lived 71 years. Surely he has some thoughts on what it all means that go beyond canned answers culled from the same speech he delivers every day.

He was asked “if evil exists.” His response was to repeat for the umpteenth time that Osama bin Laden is a bad man and he will pursue him to “the gates of hell.” That was it.

He was asked to define rich. After trying to dodge the question — his wife is worth a reported $100 million — he finally said he thought an income of $5 million was rich.

One after another, McCain’s answers were shallow, simplistic, and trite. He showed the same intellectual curiosity that George Bush has — virtually none.

This quote is from a great op ed by Jack Cafferty. If you have the time, you should really read the rest of it.

Maybe you aren’t embarrassed by our current president and his asinine world view. If so, you probably aren’t the intended audience of this piece. However, if you feel as I do that our current president is an international embarrassment whose intellectual bankruptcy has brought us nothing but a screwed up economy and a weak position on the stage of global politics, then this article should strike a chord with you. It certainly did with me.

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Posted by: heartsleeve | July 28, 2008

Andrea Mitchell calls out McCain for false advertising.

“As someone supporting John McCain, I’ve got to ask you about this new McCain ad. The McCain ad says, literally, that [Obama] could’ve gone, you know, that he did other things, Obama did other things, he could’ve visited the troops, but not with cameras. Now that literally is not true… Now, the point is, Obama had no intention of bringing any cameras with him. I was there. I can vouch for that. So why put up an ad that says that’s the reason he didn’t visit the troops? […] Well, he wasn’t planning to bring an entourage, and he certainly visited the soldiers only four or five days earlier when he was in Iraq and visited them in Walter Reed, again, without any notice and without any entourage. So it just seems inexplicable that this whole thing has become such an issue, but clearly the McCain campaign wants this to be an issue.”

– Andrea Mitchell

Posted by: heartsleeve | July 10, 2008

I am between two cities, one knows nothing of me, the other knows me no longer.
— Jean-Paul Satre, Nausea

Posted by: heartsleeve | February 17, 2008

“Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?”

Elizabeth Bishop

Posted by: heartsleeve | January 7, 2008

Education

In response to Schools Slow in Closing Gaps Between Races

The reason why No Child Left Behind doesn’t work is the same reason why 99% of these education initiatives do not work. They fail to address the reasons for the achievement gap, which are namely poverty and community cultures wherein the education and general well-being of children are not important. You will find that in most poor communities, regardless of race, children receiving a good education is considered to be less important, if not because parents are too busy working multiple jobs to make ends meet, then because drugs, alcohol, domestic abuse, and/or a widespread belief that education is unimportant or inaccessible to poor children create a substantial obstacle toward children being able to get or wanting to receive a good education. Add into this that schools poor and minority children attend are often underfunded, with the least experienced and least qualified teachers, you’ve got a huge achievement gap that can’t be bridged simply by trying to force schools to bring up their test scores on standardized tests that get harder every year.

Essentially, No Child Left Behind sets out more rigorous academic standards, while fewer children can qualify for special education or modifications in the regular classroom, and threatens schools that can’t meet those standards with cutting funds, which are usually already unbelievably low. No Child Left Behind treats every child as a statistic, nothing more, nothing less. It insists that every child can perform at the same level, every child can go to college, and that every child can do so if only schools and teachers work harder.

The truth is, you have children who come to school every day: without proper diet, without proper sleep, without good hygiene, without basic health care, and without parents or other family members who care about whether or not they succeed. This isn’t to say that in all poor families, parents do not care. This is simply saying, within poor communities, you will find that it is much more common. (And even when parents do care, they have far fewer resources and far less knowledge to overcome barriers their children face in getting a good education.) Basically, what you have is schools filled with children who are not even having their basic needs met. How can you expect these kids to perform and perform well? How can you expect teachers to teach them when their immediate concerns are usually addressing the children’s immediate concerns.

And this isn’t some sort of phantom problem, as many on the right would have you believe. (I’m thinking of Tom Delay’s mind-boggling assertion: “Emotional appeals about working families trying to get by on $4.25 an hour [the minimum wage in 1996] are hard to resist. Fortunately, such families do not exist.”) My mom is a principal at an elementary school in a poor, rural area of Texas. She actually manages pretty fantastic test scores, all things considered, and at her job every day, she sees lots of kids who are in the exact same situation that I described. At a school where she has maybe 200 students, it is a microcosm of the problems that are without a doubt affecting other schools across the country. There are kids in her school who live in homes without running water, where parents are strung out on drugs if they’re around at all, where kids have severe learning disabilities because their mothers did drugs while they were pregnant, and where kids have even more emotional problems because whatever adults are in their lives are abusive or neglectful. When my mom tells me some of the horror stories her students have lived through, some of whom are only 4 or 5 years old, I reel at the idea that any of these students even make it through the day in a semi-normal environment. These kids have problems far beyond what No Child Left Behind, or most schools, can deal with.

I have watched my mother go out of her way to do what she can for her truly needy students. In most cases, it is working with extended family members, psychologists, and doctors to try to get seriously disturbed and traumatized children under wraps. In some of the more serious cases, though, my mother personally takes kids to doctors, washes clothes so they have something clean to wear, brings kids to and from after school activities, helps them find places where they can work and be productive in their spare time, and even brings kids home so they can shower, eat, etc. I think the kids at my mom’s school are lucky because 1) it’s a small school where it’s possible for teachers and administrators to take so much of an interest in their students’ lives, 2) it’s in a small town where teachers and administrators know lengthy family histories and every last one of their students’ extended relatives, and 3) my mom goes far above and beyond the duties anyone could reasonably expect of teachers and administrators at school. She doesn’t get paid for what she does, it’s definitely not in her contract, and she does what she does not because of the test scores, but because she can’t stand to see kids who are for the most part good kids live in such awful conditions. And if my brother and I were still little kids at home, she wouldn’t have the time or the energy to take on several other kids as her personal rescue missions.

When I hear her stories, and then compare it with the balderdash that comes out of Washington, I realize that the reason why our government can not address the real issues facing educators is because they themselves have no idea what the real issues are. They have no idea what is going on in the homes of the kids they are trying to save from a life without — gasp! — going to college. They are too concerned with tax breaks, war (and how much money they can make in the war), oil, and battling the immorality of the masses/the lack of good, Christian values in this modern world to find out what the lives of many Americans are actually like. The truth is, our government is completely clueless as to why so many American children are being left behind every day, and rather than find out, they push these initiatives so they can get elected or re-elected, and then try to gloss over the results when it becomes apparent that their programs are not working.

It’s incredibly frustrating. No education initiative will work until we are willing to address the real issues in our country, which overwhelmingly boil down to poverty and the culture that poverty produces and is produced by. There is no easy fix, and you can’t begin solving problems by starting at the result of the problem.

I’m 23, have no background in education other than growing up with my mom, and even I realize that when kids don’t have their basic needs met and don’t have parents at home to encourage them, you can’t expect them to succeed. It just doesn’t make sense. So until we are willing to look at why kids are coming to school unprepared to succeed, children will be left behind. And they will grow up to have children who are also left behind.

Posted by: heartsleeve | January 1, 2008

2008

Revised to say…

My resolution is: Look forward. Be positive. Love.

The end.

Posted by: heartsleeve | December 2, 2007

Oh god, what have I done?

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”
– Rabindranath Tagore

I miss being too busy to think about my life.

And…until you’ve had days on end (especially days where you’re on-call and thus not allowed to leave the city where you are being held captive by crew scheduling) where you do nothing but stare at your computer screen and wait on the phone to ring (boy, family, friends, job), you don’t truly understand the meaning of bored. Add to this: 1) unsatisfying job (I hate sitting around), 2) no money to do anything of interest with all the spare time — not even rent a movie, and 3) crippling loneliness on the part of a girl who once defined herself by how much fun she could have with her friends…

It’s disappointing. And it’s hard to admit when you’ve made a decision that turned out to be a mistake. I really do think this job was a mistake. For all the opportunity it affords, I just don’t make enough money to take advantage of those opportunities. And I don’t have any kind of a life here — no family, no friends, definitely no boyfriend — to make piddling around here during my days off (or even my days on) worthwhile. Plus, because I don’t think I made any particularly strong friendships during training, and it’s been almost impossible to make friends on the job, I’ve given up on ever cultivating any serious relationships with anyone here. When 4 of 5 roommates are kind of crazy, and the only semi-normal one is never around (and could also be crazy and just is waiting to whip the crazy out on you)…

I don’t know. It all just feels like a big fat mistake. And I’m ready to make some new decisions. Ready for change again. Ready to pack my life up again. Ready to admit I didn’t get this one right. I don’t know what happens next. I mean, I have some pretty good ideas, but…right now it all feels pretty shaky. This felt right and it ended up being a disaster. And I knew all the challenges that came with it, you know? It’s not like I came into this unaware. I just thought I’d be stronger.

I hate making mistakes. And feeling weak.

And so as much as I’m frustrated with everything else in my life, really I’m just pissed off at myself for being so stupid.

Posted by: heartsleeve | November 20, 2007

Quoteable

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Posted by: heartsleeve | November 16, 2007

Science v. Romance

So I believe that “The One” exists. I believe that somewhere out there, there is a guy who was made to be compatible with me, that we were made to find each other, love each other, and die old and gray in each others’ arms. Granted, I’ve always been kind of a retardedly hopeless romantic, and it’s entirely possible I was overexposed to Disney movies, romantic comedies, and fairy tales as a child, making the entire script of finding Prince Charming and Happily Ever After as real to me as Grow Up and Get A Job is for most people.

At the same time, I have to acknowledge that there have to be multiple people out there that we can be compatible with, that we could potentially find, love, and make it to old age with. If that weren’t the case, then we have nowhere to go if our lovers die and leave us all alone. I don’t really hold with the notion, though, that we could be compatible with just anyone, that love is more or less just a matter of randomly meeting someone, having a reasonable degree of compatibility (shared experiences, values, etc.), and being sexually attracted to each other…at least at first.

This morning I found this article, The Science of Love, and found myself going, “Yeah, yeah, that all makes sense and sounds rational and all, but…” Basically, this article argues that love is lust, with a certain degree of emotional bonding that, after x amount of time becomes so much habit that you can’t imagine yourself functioning without that person. To me, that just sounds like love based in fear of being without someone you’ve gotten used to having around. Not really love at all…

I don’t know. I’ve never really been the type to confuse lust with love, or even long term commitment and a certain degree of emotional bonding and sexual attraction with love. I’ve always been very careful with saying the L-word because to me, it’s a big deal, and it is way more than just finding someone you could be reasonably happy with for an extended period time. Love is more than that, and from personal experience…I think I’m right. Love is more than lust turned into a habit. And love may not be more than chemical reactions in my brain, but I’ve always believed that science is the result of the workings of something bigger than just science.

I don’t know if any of this is making sense. But. *shrugs*

(And, no, I didn’t miss the part of the article where they discuss how people who are in love often think they are experiencing something special. I don’t think I’m in anything special — well, maybe it’s a little special ;), but nothing like a cosmically pre-ordained soulmate explosion. I think I’ve just been lucky enough to find one of those very, very few people that I am more than just compatible with. And I think that a lot of people can find real love…it’s just that most people get so distracted by the lust thing, or by mediocre long-term relationships that people are so accustomed to they don’t leave, they never find it.)

Posted by: heartsleeve | November 1, 2007

Thoughts on sleeping around…

So I was reading this article on the rise of casual sex… To be honest, I think the whole notion of the “casual sex phenomenon” is a little bit overblown. For a while in my life, I was kind of a part of this phenomenon I guess — I had casual sex as opposed to relationships — but in doing so, I never felt like I was abandoning other ideals that I had. I might have thought that love and romance were a little out of reach for me, but that didn’t mean that I thought they were impossible or that I had given up on them. I definitely hadn’t written them off as figments of the collective social imagination.

Out of my circle of friends, I am one of maybe three people who have engaged in this so-called phenomenon, and one of those people I ended up dating for over a year. The rest were overwhelmingly either embroiled in long-term relationships (some are now married, others have been together for so long they might as well be) or were in hot pursuit of the boyfriend/girlfriend they would someday turn into husbands/wives. Even those of us who did have casual sex were not anti-relationship. We just recognized that we weren’t in one, so we’d take the next best thing. Hook-ups were an easier alternative for a period when there simply wasn’t anyone available or interesting to be in a relationship with. *shrugs*

I guess for me hook-ups don’t show the absence of love or ideals of love/romance/partnership in our society. They do however point to the fact that we have more casual notions about sex in general. Even for those who still think that sex is important, sacred, and to be reserved for a loving relationship or marriage, it’s not hushed up the way it once was. People talk about sex, in public spaces, in mixed company. We see/hear it everywhere — on TV, on billboards, in magazines, on the radio. We make irreverent jokes about it, and it’s not just men jesting in gentlmen’s clubs. Sex has become very public, highly visible, and we all talk about it. Whether we talk about having it or not having it, it’s something that we can talk about. And by simply putting sex in the public sphere, we make it more casual. No longer is it that dirty thing we can only talk about in whispers, or with members of our own sex behind closed doors.

Beyond that, yes, relationships are more time and resource consuming than hook-ups. Most college students, at least, don’t really have the time or resources to devote to the cultivation of a relationship. Plus, when many students plan to go off to graduate schools, law schools, med schools, or take jobs in other cities, or plan on doing any number of other enriching typical post-college activities (e.g. Peace Corps, taking a Fullbright, etc.), most simply can’t look at finding a long-term relationship as a possibility when they know that in four years, everyone will be heading off in their own directions. This is directly a result of both more people going off to college and more people planning on continuing building their resume of education or experiences before going into the working world. Love and romance have become things that are secondary to education or career, or at least, they are things we are taught, wisely, by our parents to put off until we are in a position to support ourselves, our lovers, and any offspring that might be accidentally produced when you have someone around that is readily available for intercourse 24/7 (well, at least in theory).

Hook-ups are what happen when you don’t have the time to find the real thing, when the real thing isn’t available, or when finding the real thing could interfere with other goals that you have for yourself, in a social environment where attitudes towards sex are casual. I don’t think they change classic notions of love, romance or partnership. At least for me, and most of the people I know, those things still exist and are unbelievably important. I think most people are looking for love — but for those who feel comfortable with it, they’ll take a hook-up in the meantime. And overwhelmingly, most people aren’t comfortable with it, or at least aren’t comfortable with doing it on a regular basis. (I think it’s kind of unhygienic, and I know I’m not alone in this opinion.)

It kind of annoys me when people compare hooking up with the disintegration of monogamy and marriage and very notions of love itself. Does it point to changing social mores? Absolutely. But do those changing mores have to come at the expense of love? Ehhh…

I think there is much more that threatens ideals of love and romance in our society than hooking up, although some of the reasons why hooking up has become so prevalent can also be seen as some of the reasons why, say, the divorce rate is so high. Increasingly, we put education and career above love, friendship and family. Many people are simply too busy even as adults to focus on those things which should be important, largely in attempt to horde large amounts of material possessions that tout a person’s status and success. People on the whole are less patient, much more concerned with easy solutions and quick fixes; maintaining a relationship in the long-term is incredibly hard work, and most people aren’t willing to put in the leg work.

There is a prevailing notion that love should be easy and effortless. I look at things like He’s Just Not That Into You or any other number of dating resources that basically tell you any time your partner starts slacking off, it means it’s just not meant to be and you should break up immediately and move on to something better. And…there’s the notion that something better waits just around the corner. The entire idea that love can be perfect, easy, and effortless is ridiculous, but I think it’s one that most people have in their heads. They don’t realize that love is a lot of work. And maybe part of this comes from the fact that so many people in my generation (and even in those ten years older than I am) were raised by parents who, themselves, divorced rather than stayed together, never put in the kind time and energy necessary to make a marriage work. (Ask anyone whose parents are still together if their parents have never had a hard time staying together — almost all will tell you that divorce was something that crossed their parents’ lips more than once.) The truth is, before people stayed together because that’s just what you did. Now, people aren’t willing to “settle.” Everyone wants to trade up for something better, and whether that’s a better job, a better home, or a better spouse…people are always looking for the next big thing. I think as a society we don’t value what we have in general. We always want more.

Maybe hooking up is a biproduct of all these same factors which are negatively impacting ideals of love, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a contributing factor. If hooking up and love were opposites, there wouldn’t be so much debate over whether hooking up is a good or bad idea in terms of emotional health. There wouldn’t be the notion that fuck buddies usually leads to someone getting hurt, of someone getting emotionally attached. Within the “hook up phenomenon,” there is still the potential for emotion and attachment and connection. It is not devoid of the elements of love and romance; it’s just generally considered a bad idea to let them slip in, because chances are, it’s going to be one-sided. I think it just goes to show that those ideals exist and that they are important. It’s just that in our lives, there is less and less room for them. Love and romance get squeezed out, but it doesn’t mean people don’t want them or hope for them.

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