Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Perspective

In the final days of the year, it is customary for one to look back and see what has happened. What went really well? Where have things gone awry and what was my part in all of that? How can I take what I've learned and apply it to making next year even better? How have I been a good person and how can I replicate that behavior? Where have I been inconsiderate and how do I make that right? The end of the year is an appropriate time to take an inventory and see where I am in life's ocean, figure out if the little flotation devices strapped to my arms are working and figure out if I'm going to sink, swim or lay still.

Speaking of laying still, I did that this morning. I have slept in every day since school let out, at least until 7 a.m. I wake up to a little grey kitty pawing at my hair. "Hey, lazybones, feed me before I blow chunks on your nice new comforter set." Eleanor is a good reminder that routine is a healthy and necessary part of life. I will not allow myself to lay still for long. This is my time of rest and rejuvenation. In a few days I will hit the ground running again, racing for the finish line of dissertation writing and revision, of research and reflection and becoming a better teacher.

It has been an interesting year. Julian Assange is the most fascinating person of 2010 for his Wikileaks and the backlash against him. He knew going into this operation that world governments would try to stop his project- that of publishing dirty government details online and in selected media and exposing corruption in Kenya, other parts of Africa and specifically in the United States as we try to keep the lid on our operations in Guantanomo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq. There are even leaks about Scientology. He gets help from from anonymous bloggers, hackers and those interested in the transfer of information from the U.S. government to everywhere in the world. National Public Radio observed that Wikileaks cannot at this point be shut down without cutting power to the entire internet and I'm pretty sure that Al Gore isn't going to pull the plug. Interesting that Assange, an Australian, chose the United States as the primary target of his free government information for all campaign. This might be because the U.S. has the most liberal information policy- the Freedom of Information Act- or perhaps he had more contacts in the states. Our government is looking into legal recourse and has for now decided upon a smear campaign, insisting that while freedom of information is important, that it is reckless and dangerous to publish information about the wars we are fighting. Maybe this is true, but while lots of people have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I mean oodles both from direct fire and the aftermath of war, nobody has yet to die from what Assange put out there. Sweden is attempting to trump up charges of sexual assault and rape against Assange. If the charge is valid, I say Assange should go to jail for the crime. If it's not, and it appears to me as though this is a convenient way to make him disappear, then fuck it. Leave him be. The average American is too lazy to read Wikileaks anyway. Who cares if the leader of Libya has a male traveling companion who is probably his lover? There is more juicy information to be found on Perez

I agree with a friend who observed that perhaps Assange has selected the U.S. for his campaign not for the bountiful information, but for the lack of assassins employed to take care of people like him. As far as we know, the White House does not condone assassination and our 007's are currently occupied and have been for the last several years in the ongoing search for Osama bin Laden.

In other national news, I admire President Obama for his decision to repeal the draconian "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy. When President Clinton instituted the DADT law, it was an effort to protect gays and lesbians from persecution. That's where our country was at the time. And times have changed. I hope this decision reflects that. I love my president for his insistence that all men and women are created equal. I cried when I heard the news, for as Dr. King tells us, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

While I dislike the tax cuts for the rich that he agreed to, I trust that perhaps there is a better trade off for those who most need assistance from our government. I predict and hope that in 2011, everyone in the United States will gain the right to marry, regardless of gender. I have heard the argument against marriage equality- that if same sex partners marry, it will erode the family structure. This is 2010, almost 2011 and divorce is common, with adultery and emotional betrayal almost expected. It's time to let go of the myth of the nuclear family. Moms and dads have to work, children are commonly born into single parent households and frankly, there just aren't that many unplanned pregnancies or abortions with same sex couples. And no, nobody will marry their chihuahua or donkey if same sex couples are allowed the same rights as heterosexuals. These arguments didn't hold up to scrutiny in the 1950's when we banned interracial relationships and they don't hold true today. With Obama at the helm, hopefully our country will continue forward on a path to equality.

Speaking of equal and fair, I'd like to see a few other changes in 2011. Let's actually CLOSE Gitmo bay for good and figure out how to bring justice to those interred there without charges for years on end. Perhaps each and every one of them deserves a lifetime in prison for their crimes but they still have a right to due process of law. Beyond that, I want us to be a nation that gives due process according to the Constitution because it's the right thing to do and the moral obligation of a fair and just country. While we're at it, let's just go ahead and legalize and tax the shit out of marijuana. Nobody ever went on a pot rage, unlike the drunken alcohol-fueled rages we sometimes see now. And it can help glaucoma, still nausea for chemo patients and help the economy through regulation. It's mostly legal in many states now, so let's just go ahead and apply capitalism to the concept, k? Think of it: fewer people incarcerated, more people walking around happy (or at least stoned out of their gourds) and lots of revenue to pay for health care as we Americans burn our lungs out with ditchweed.

Next year, I plan to swim rather than sink or float through and pretend I don't see the world around me. I resolve to speak up and out when necessary. I'll put my money where my mouth is, buy locally and help my neighbors and friends. I will learn from teaching and teach learning and probably smack my head on some wall or door in the process. This is a good thing, though. Keeps me humble as I bumble. Keeps me open to learning, to love and to compassion and hope.

A friend recently asked me if I thought my students read the comments I put on their papers and if I thought it helped. Part of me is defensive- of course every student would read every word I write! They care and want to be better writers, or at least see what they need to do for their next paper to improve and get a better grade. But then I think that in a hundred years, nobody is going to care about what think of their writing. Hell, in five years, nobody will care. Ok, maybe just one year or next week. What my students think of me or what I do is not my business. I only rarely see the positive side of my work. I'm a tree planter and arborist and so are other teachers. The fruit doesn't ripen or even set on until roots go down, branches go out, the sun shines and the bees do their thing. I am even one of those trees, planted years ago and offering flowers to the sun. Asking me if I think it helps to write on student work is like asking a gardener how many of the thousands of fruit trees he pruned will one day bear fruit. Teachers and gardeners can only assume that their work is good and productive and hope that one day, the fruit will not be bitter with selfishness, but sweet with kindness passed on.

Happy New Year. Let's go sow some seeds.

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