And don’t give up the dream

20 04 2019

My mum’s a McCue, from a line which apparently traces back to 19th century Cork. So I’m of Irish descent. There might be some from my dad’s side as well—he’s a true American mosaic—but the McCue is a solid line.

That said, having grown up in southeastern Wisconsin, the culture was more German (which, yep, my ancestors also were) than anything else. Bit of Dutch, bit of Swedish, some Polish, heading toward Milwaukee, but I grew up in the land of bratwurst, sommer sausages, stumpf fiddles, and polkas.

Still, McCue, which was enough at some point in grad school to set me off on an “I’M IRISH” kick.

It was a shallow kick—I still haven’t read any good histories on Éire—but even a few inches will lead one into jigs, reels, Irish punk, and, as they happened to be recording when I was kicking—Black 47.

I do try to keep in mind the Pogues’s line “we celebrate the land that made us refugees” to keep any romanticism in check, but even a nationalist-skeptic like me gets choked up at a good, rousing, Rising song.

As a teen I took great pride in my cynicism; now, even though that seems a cop-out, a way to justify resignation, it’s tough to avoid.

So, yeah, I know there’s a fair amount of bullshit about the revolution and a dangerously blinkered revival of the (New) IRA, but however contrived my Irish identity, and whatever my unease with nationalism, I am not ungrateful that I can still be moved by a song celebrating liberation.





For we’re marching toward Algiers

13 02 2019

Ah yes, another round in the endless presidential campaign and, as promised, I make no predictions.

I do have opinions, though, on who I like more, and less, and otherwise, on the Dem side.

On the More side: Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren

Less: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, John Kerry, Tulsi Gabbard, Mike Bloomberg

Otherwise: Bernie Sanders, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Sherrod Brown, Amy Klobuchar, Eric Holder, Pete Buttigieg

There are a bunch of other possibilities, but I’m leaving them off due to the combination of relatively low national profile and undeclared status. (If I included them now, they’d all just go in otherwise because I don’t have much of an opinion on them.)

As for the whys of placement: I like Gillibrand’s overall decent liberal-left profile and I am more than fine with her feminism front-and-center, and I like Warren’s economic focus.

In the less category: I thought Biden was a fine veep, but there’s nothing about either him or his record that makes me want to vote for him. Kerry was a decent Senator and decent Secretary of State, but he’s ran and lost in 2004 and he’s too old, to boot. Gabbard is an Assad apologist. Mike Bloomberg was as good as a Republican gets.

Booker? He’s got some political chops, but he’s rather conservative on economic issues, I don’t know if he’s moved away from charter schools, and, man, there’s just something about him that makes me wary. Still, chops.

Otherwise: Sanders too old but he brings an enthusiastic crowd; I don’t know enough about Castro, Buttigieg, or O’Rourke; I’d hate to lose Brown’s Ohio senate seat and I don’t know that he brings anything more than Warren does; and Holder strikes me as too moderate.

Klobuchar? Again, somewhat moderate, but the stories of her mistreatment of staff are what give me great pause. Yeah, some of the criticism could be driven by sexism, but “the boys do it, too!” is not much of justification for really shitty behavior.

And Harris, well, I think she’s got some skill and she’s generally been righteous as a senator, but her record as attorney general in California is, from what little I do know, not great. I am very interested in her, but I gotta do some more homework.

All of this said: if ANY of these people were the nominee, I’d vote for them.

Finally, I have zero punditastic advice to offer to Democrats in general about who we “should” choose, who might turn off which group, or who scares Trump and the Republicans the most. The GOP are going to throw shit at whoever’s the candidate, so trying to find someone who’ll get less shit is a mug’s game, and demoralizing as all hell.

As much as I hate to say it, Trump as the incumbent has the advantage, so we cannot give any ground.

We Dems should choose who we think is best, get behind that person, and run as hard as we can.





Teacher, teach me

7 02 2019

Back in class, again, which is good.

Yeah, I have those other jobs, but teaching is my main job, and I’m pretty good at it. I’m also lucky in that I like what I’m teaching; if I get bored, I change up the syllabus et voilà, no longer bored.

I changed up my intro American politics syllabus last spring. My approach with past syllabi has been to cover the basics via textbook/class lecture, and then try to integrate a complementary theme to bring out some of the wrinkles of our political system; in this version, the complementary theme is street-level or “outside” politics, to contrast with the “inside” politics centered on government.

The first semester was kinda rough, as the first semester of a new syllabus tends to be: I have an idea, but it doesn’t always translate well to practice. The second semester tends to go better, as I figure out which goes better with what, and I usually hit my stride by the third semester.

However.

Last semester it never really gelled. I don’t know if it was me, if it was the arrangement of the material, the students, some combination, or, y’know, Trump (just because).

It was frustrating as hell, not least because I think the particulars of the outside theme are fascinating as hell: I focus on the civil rights movement 1960-65, specifically, on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. I chose SNCC both because it was less well known than MLK’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and because the students in SNCC were not much older than the students in my classroom.

It also didn’t hurt that there’s a boatload of good material available online, so my students wouldn’t have to fork over more money for books.

Anyway, SNCC has the sit-ins! Freedom Rides! Freedom Summer! The SNCC volunteers were brave and scared and resolute and angry and patient and oh my goddess they risked everything for themselves and their fellow human beings.

And those young men and women weren’t terribly impressed with politicians or presidents, the NAACP or MLK, even as they relied on them to convert direct action into law.

I could go on—but I won’t. The upshot was that my students just weren’t into it and I couldn’t figure out how to get them into it.

So, this semester I tinkered a bit with the schedule to try to make it easier for the students to engage with it, to see the connections (and frictions) between the activists and the politicians, and to understand that politics happens at all different levels.

We’ll see if it works. Initial indications are good—although this may have less to do with me and the schedule than with having students who bring an interest in politics with them into the class. When that happens—when there are a handful of students who are eager to question or comment—the discussions are richer, and tend to pull in even more students.

That was part of what I was missing last semester: that participatory core that could energize everyone else.

That said, I remember what a long-ago college professor said to me: “Ten percent of the students are going to love you no matter what you do, ten percent will hate you no matter what you do, and the other 80 percent don’t really care one way or the other.”

I’d long since come to see that as a challenge, to try to rope that 80 percent into caring—not about me, but about the subject. Last semester that didn’t happen, which sucked. I don’t like to fail my students, and that’s what I did.

But it’s a new semester, and so far, so good.





There’s a red cloud hanging over us

6 11 2018

A little over a year ago I wrote this (among other things) about Donald Trump:

Donald J. Trump is a man without qualities.

He has no character, no public virtues, no apparent principles. He demonstrates no consideration for this country, for the Republican party, or for his followers; they matter not in and of themselves, but only insofar as they are of use to him.

He focuses on transactions, not relationships. He cares for others only to the extent they reflect him back to himself; if he doesn’t like what he sees, he blames the mirror.

I think I was too kind.

Anyway, I didn’t ask if he was a fascist because I thought that he lacked any concern for anything beyond himself meant that he couldn’t be a fascist. (Cue quote.)

I still don’t think he’s a fascist (too empty, too lazy), but I don’t think he’d mind fascism, if fascism would help him. Some of the people around him are fascists (the rest are opportunists), some of the people who show up at his rallies would welcome fascism (the rest simply wouldn’t mind), and Trump looses the kind of rhetoric on his “enemies” that gives fascists the goose-steps.

So let me state that more strongly: Trump enables fascism, brings it to the surface, encourages it to breathe.

Outright fascists are a small minority of the American polity, but there is an unhealthy minority of folks who wouldn’t don’t have a problem with fascism clad in a MAGA hat. They applaud ignorance, cheer brutality, and delight in their own cruelty. They consider themselves brave and strong and true and in a show of their superiority would gladly stomp the rest of us into submission.

And the tepid supporters, the silent Republicans, the ones who don’t approve of curb-stomping? They’ll tut, and do nothing.

Why, the night before an election which may slow the roll down, mention fascism? Because those of us who are not fascists—who are anti-fascists—have to do everything possible to gum up the gears to the Trump train.

Because we know where that train leads.





Hush hush, keep it down now

28 09 2018

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m on deadline for my freelance gig (which is great, by the way, but has left me no time for nothin’), so can’t say anything more eloquent than this now.

But boy o boy. . . .





Cause they can’t make opinions meet about God

10 08 2018

I am generally polite to people on a mission.

In my neighborhood, they’re mostly Christian, from the Jamaican ladies outside of the train station with their copies of Watchtower to the, well, Jamaican ladies knocking on my door asking if they could have a Word with me.

I am very occasionally asked if I’m Jewish by some polite young man in a wide-brimmed hat, which, no, but thank you for asking.

I admire people who want to share their Gods: if you have an inside track on what you think is the best thing in the universe, it’s generous to to say Hey, look everyone!

Even the train evangelists, who can be quite loud, well, they’re out there walking their walk.

But this? No.

Now, certainly my response is due in part to the fact that I have zero respect for Franklin Graham. He may be sincere in his beliefs, but, unlike those Jamaican ladies, he seems to be more interested in people becoming Christian so as to boost himself than in offering a kindness to those others.

In the midst of an Oregon mission rally (during which he not so coincidentally urged his followers to get political), he said this about the (non-Christian) Democratic governor:

“Let’s pray for your governor, Gov. Brown. Wouldn’t it be something if she got saved? Amen.…We pray for Kate Brown. And Lord, I pray that she would come to know your son Jesus Christ as her lord and savior one day.”

I get it. It’s a part of a prophetic tradition to call out political leaders, and preachers left, right, and center have so called.

But that’s not what Graham’s doing. If he wanted to play the prophet he wouldn’t have aligned himself so closely with America’s Nero, and if he were sincerely interested in Kate Brown’s spiritual health he wouldn’t have engaged in an evangelistic version of cat-calling.

No, Graham is stunting. He doesn’t give a shit about Brown’s beliefs, only that her politics are not his.

Now Terri, you might ask, how do you know what’s in Franklin’s heart? Oh, I don’t know, maybe because he’s questioned the Christianity of Barack Obama?* Said that you can tell that Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were Christians based on their policy positions?

Graham is a Trump-humper, a GOP tankie, and a political actor through-and-through. That’s fine: he can be as political as he wants to be.

Let’s  just not pretend that his call-out to Gov Brown is anything other than political.

*(Tho’ I should note here that he also doesn’t think Mitt Romney is a Christian. Mormons! Whattya gonna do?)

h/t HuffPo, Willamette Week





You can be active with the activists

19 03 2018

Cynthia Nixon is running for governor of New York. Huh.

That’s a real, not snarky, “huh”: I don’t like Cuomo and thus am interested in any Dem who’d run against him, and don’t know enough about Nixon to have an opinion one way or another.

Yeah, I generally think it’s a good idea for candidates to have political experience at the lower levels before running for higher levels, but, unlike the presidency, I don’t think that’s an absolute requirement for other offices. And she has been politically active for years, which does count.

As for policies: she’s in favor of fixing the MTA, (which, jesus, someone should be) and opposed to the Independent Democratic Conference (which gave the Republicans control of the Senate), and she highlights the screaming inequality in our state—so, y’know, righteous on the basics.

It’ll take more than basics, of course, not least because other candidates (if there are other candidates) will also be righteous: she’ll need to lay out a framework for how she plans to govern, that is, what skills she’ll bring to move her agenda through the fetid mire that is New York state politics.

I don’t know if she has those skills, but she’s got time to show what she could do; if I’m not yet convinced, I am convince-able.

After all, she does start with one significant advantage: