In the News

Just a Little Bit of History Repeating

100 years ago today the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated, kick starting a series of events that would trigger the War to End All Wars. (Today, his legacy lives on through an eponymous post-punk revival band.)

His assassination no more caused World War I, of course, than firing on Fort Sumter caused the American Civil War. The pieces for war were in place, just awaiting a hand to strike the match.

The series of events following the assassination are truly astonishing in their utter stupidity and nonsense. This is true of almost every major event in history, but the European Imperialists really out kicked their coverage on this one.

World War I didn’t end all wars, as we well know, but it completely changed the world and it completely changed the United States.

As such an important event, it truly boggles my mind that we spent all of 15 minutes learning about it in my high school American History class. We spent about as much time on the Vietnam War, so clearly learning about history as something that lives and breathes and affects us now as much as it did when it happened just wasn’t the point of history class in school.

The nonsensical, illogical thinking behind the events that caused the War to happen are exactly what we need to be teaching in school. There’s a certain inevitability to human beings making stupid decisions, but how can we ever recognize those stupid decisions as they’re happening if we don’t learn what they looked like 100 years ago?

I can’t help but smile and laugh a little bit to myself when people proclaim that history is nothing more than a set of dates and facts to be committed to memory so a test can be passed.

Because history isn’t facts. History is fluid. It changes and evolves. We sculpt it to fit the way we understand the modern world. Decisions that made sense 100 years ago look utterly ridiculous to us today.

It absolutely fascinating to read about how the assassination is viewed and how the interpretation of the assassination has changed in the past 100 years, being filtered through the ever changing prism we call The Present.

World War I was inevitable. Not just because Europe was ready to get all Rambo’ed-up and fight, but because the world itself was changing and the Old World Order no longer fit.

There’s an inevitability toward violent, destructive change. There’s an inevitability toward the humans involved doing it as stupidly as possible.

Maybe it’s a little silly to wish that we were taught how to look at events of the past critically and apply the lessons to our thinking about politics and foreign policy and voting decisions.

I rail against the willing ignorance of the masses, even though it’s inevitable. Because to think that we’re important and that we can master human nature and change the very essence of our existence is perhaps the most inevitable of all the terrible human traits.

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An Honest Mistake

The New York times ran an article a little while back on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, in which she described how difficult the transition was from full time career woman to full time mother. Unsurprisingly, she was skewered by the New York media for daring to suggest any of the things she suggested (mainly, that life can be full of difficult decisions and transitions).

See, when you have a child, the child is supposed to fulfill your every wish and desire and you aren’t supposed to want to be away from that child for even a nanosecond because nothing else can possibly make you happy or satisfy you.

Except, when you have a child, the child is also not supposed to fulfill your every wish and desire and you are supposed to want to continue to work and lean in and crash through glass ceilings because you are a modern woman and it takes more than hearth and home to make you happy and satisfied.

It is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that you may not wholeheartedly want either of these. And to be honest about the conflict? Pure blasphemy.

Honesty is the most controversial thing to put out there. It’s uncomfortable. It doesn’t fit tidily into the story you’re trying to tell yourself and everyone else about your life. Worse, it has no place in the story other people are trying to tell themselves about their own lives.

To speak honestly requires bravery.

To recoil in horror at honesty is to be uncomfortable with real, messy, unphotogenic life.

The Wolf’s Gonna Blow It Down

It had absolutely nothing to do with me. Even talking about it the way I want to talk about it, I feel like I’m trying to put myself in a story that isn’t mine. The characters in the drama interact and their scene plays out while I bang on the glass that  keeps me out, trying to be part of it.

The day before, I drove through campus on my way home. I drove through when the building that would become a major crime scene a day later let its students out of class. They crossed the street in a seemingly unending line in front of my car. I just wanted to get home!

I was annoyed at them for no good reason, really. I was annoyed at them, not knowing that a day later one of them would be dead and all of them changed.

I can’t help but wonder if Paul Lee walked by my car that day, the last time he’d leave class. I search the pictures of the other injured students. I study the face of Jon Meis, who brought the gunman down and saved the lives of his friends, and try to jog my memory into recalling him.

It has nothing to do with me.

The night it happened, I stared blankly out my window and wondered what the students at SPU were doing at that moment. What do you do? Were they walking around like zombies, feeling, numb, feeling drained like I was? Were they drinking? Probably not. SPU doesn’t strike me as much of a party school. Were they gathered in small groups, praying, trying to talk themselves through it?

It has nothing to do with me. I would never had been in that building. But it’s a corner of my world. I drive by that building when I drive home from work. I run behind that building on my lunchtime runs along the ship canal. It’s so much a part of my world and a terrible thing happened in my world.

I thought about the bomb threat we had my senior year of high school, a year after Columbine. I thought of us joking about how we had to stay inside, away from windows. Our nervous laughter poking fun at the idea that THAT could happen to us because how can you function knowing that THAT can happen to you?

I started building a wall that day. I added another brick every time a random shooting happened. Another layer of mortar every time I wanted to curl up in a dark corner and not face the world.

I wonder how people do it in parts of the world where bombs and public attacks are a part of life.

Then, I realize this is one of those parts of the world.

My bricks and my mortar are in a pile of rubble at my feet. I can’t help feeling despair as I stare at them. I can build them as strong as I can. It’ll be fine for a while.

Until a huff and a puff and I’ll stare at the pile of rubble again.

I Can’t Close My Eyes and Make It Go Away

You’ve learned to numb yourself to bad news. Mass shooting after mass shooting and somehow, just to survive, you find a way to not let it get to you. Because you have to live and work and be in the world where mass shootings happen.

Then, you hear sirens out the window. Sirens that continue to scream for over an hour.

Then, you turn on the police scanner.

Then, you refresh news sites, even though you already know the story.

Then, you read Tweets about guns and you stare blindly at the screen, trying to make the words fit what just happened.

Mass shootings. A fact of our lives. It’s a difficult thing to hear about and brush off. Somehow you got there, just to live and work and be in a world where mass shootings happen.

Then, it happens a couple blocks away. At a school you drove past yesterday, annoyed as you sat waiting for students leaving class to finish crossing the street so you could get home already.

Then, you sit and stare and try to form thoughts.

Then, you can’t brush it off.

#YesAllWomen

I watched a murder trial in high school. A man was accused of murdering his wife because she had left him. I listened to the testimony of her father, describing the incidents in their relationship that he had witnessed. His daughter was referred to by her full name, Elizabeth, but during a story when she had called him terrified because her husband was trying to break in the door at her apartment he slipped and called her Betsy.

It was utterly heartbreaking.

Her husband sat next to his lawyer, showing no emotion. He was later convicted of her murder in one of the first murder cases in Washington State to use DNA evidence.

It’s a stock news story. It happens all the time. Women being killed by their husbands, boyfriends, neighbors, and friends because they didn’t want to be under their control. Women in abusive relationships are mocked and people shake their heads and wonder why they don’t just leave.

To leave a bad relationship, a woman must be willing to pay with her life.

Not all women have been in abusive relationships or assaulted. Not all women have direct experience with that.

But ALL women have experienced the sentiment that we are only worthwhile if we are pretty objects that please men. ALL women have been told in one way or another that we are less than men, that to be feminine is to be undeserving of respect.

I’ve heard so many men say that they didn’t understand what women went through until they had daughters. These are men who are good guys, but they didn’t fully respect women until their daughters forced them to.

It’s absolutely ridiculous that it needs to be said that the #YesAllWomen Twitter hashtag isn’t man bashing. And yet, for every woman who shares a story, there’s a man chiming in that not all men are rapists, abusers, and street harassers.

If there are men who feel victimized by women speaking about their victimization that’s a problem. If there are men who feel that they deserve special recognition because they haven’t raped someone? The problem is worse than we want to recognize.

Machiavelli Called, He Wants His Political Philosophy Back

We’ll just pretend to be health workers, injecting unknown substances into people, taking their DNA, and they’ll totally be fine with it.

I mean, we’re doing it to catch Osama Bin Laden.

Duh.

How can anyone be upset about that? It’s terrorism. And you either support us, or you’re a terrorist.

(It’s quite convenient that it’s so easy to tell terrorists apart from non-terrorists.)

You may have your own culture and your own world view, but trust us. We’re the United States. We know what’s best.

People apparently aren’t getting the polio vaccine anymore because of our tactics. Apparently, this terrible disease is on-trend, despite being so close to eradication. What can we do? It’s your decision not to get the vaccine.

But, jeez, people are causing such a fuss over this! Fine, whatever, we won’t do it anymore.

Just don’t come blaming us for our own actions.

All Pretty and Petite

It’s great that women’s rights have reached a point in this country that the Feminist Intelligentsia can obsess over tiny slights. I’m talking about the use of the word “bossy” and whether or not some celebrity or other identifies herself as a feminist.

(Of course, what they’re missing is that many people choose not to identify as feminists because of the way the Feminist Intelligentsia fixates on tiny slights).

This isn’t to say that they aren’t still gender inequalities, but gone are the days when we need big showy demonstrations and vitriolic admonitions to make progress. Time is taking care of the rest. Being at the head of the charge for change yields power that we’d probably do well to let go.

Much like race, there are still people out there who will express long bygone opinions of gender. It’s absolutely appropriate to get upset at them and admonish them, but we don’t need to act like the sky is falling down.

I think about this as I read the horrifying story of those young girls kidnapped in Nigeria, their families fearing that they were sold into slavery.

This is a thing that happens in the world.

Women are raped and forced to marry their rapists. They are sold into slavery. They are not allowed to be out in public alone. The list goes on and on and on.

American society can be awful to women and what it does to girls can be downright heartbreaking.  But we’re mistaking small things for big things. That’s not to say the small things aren’t important or deserving of attention, but they aren’t Big Things.

The outrage that’s directed at a celebrity who says she’s not a feminist, or who believes that feminism means women want to subjugate men, would be better directed elsewhere.

Of course, the treatment of women in the world isn’t a feminist issue. It’s a human rights issue. And if there’s no “Us vs. Them”, then what is there to drive up the page views?