Monday, January 28, 2008

Mr. Rogers meets David Attenborough

Today, I saw this juvenile hawk eating a squirrel right in our front yard! Well, on the median between a parking lot and our house. It was a perfect excuse to use my awesome camera, but if you don't like seeing gross things, you should not look.

His crop is kind of bulgy.

Messy eater. But awesome eye.

Schlurpy schlurpy (also, the squirrel is smiling at you)...


Friday, January 25, 2008

LGBTQ party

Sometimes I feel like life is just one big joke. Example? Well, the LGBTQ welcome-back semester bash was at the "Straight" (Willard Straight Hall). Haha. Although, because nobody else seemed to notice, it was a bit paler than it could've been. Ma'alesh.

School has started up again, and I may just be able to hang on this semester. I've been being productive--I've done all the readings so far, and gotten an HPV shot into the bargain. Actually, it was into my arm, but the nurse pulled the needle out a little bit sideways and yowch. I felt like my arm was being unraveled from the inside. Ick.

The idea for the evening is the concept of "queer"ness. A lot of buttons at the LGBTQ party (they had buttons for whoever wanted them) said things like "we're here and we're queer--get used to it". I understand that reclaiming the word "queer" is an empowering thing to do--if you take it for your own and embrace it and give it a new meaning, then it is no longer useful to those who would hurt you. I understand this, and I support the reclaiming of words. I also support the reclaiming of religion (specifically Protestantism) by people who are somewhat left of Boondocks Alabama politics. So if people are empowered by being "queer" I support that.

But I don't identify as "queer'. I don't feel odd, or out-of-the-ordinary, or particularly strange; I feel like a person. Just a person. I'm glad there are activists, and I support the idea of activism, but I'm not an activist, because I think in order to be an activist, you have to be to the far side of reasonable: you have to be an extremist, and then you fight with the opposite extreme and come to a reasonable middle-ground. I don't feel extreme, just because I, as a friend so eloquently put it "like boys AND girls". Politically, I guess I'm a little extreme. But the point is that the word "queer" to me hasn't got the societal undertones that it seems to have for everyone else. Maybe because I read a lot of British Detective Fiction when I was really forming my vocabulary and mode of communication (roughly, age 9-14). To me, "queer" means "odd", "strange", "peculiar", "weird" with an undertone of the unexpected. There are certainly aspects of myself that I would use those words to describe.

My orientation isn't one of them. Maybe it's because I think that pretty much everyone is bisexual to some degree or other. In any case, I do not feel strange, and I do not feel as if I need to rub the fact that I am bisexual in people's faces to feel legitimized. If they know it, and they interact with me in a normal way, then that's great. The argument for legalizing gay marriage is, for me, a simple matter of "Why does sexual orientation have to MATTER?" As in, at all? Two people wanna commit to share their lives with each other--I say go for it. Black, green, blue, purple, male, female, neither, both....I don't care. Whoever you are, and whoever you're in love with--those things are not relevant. It embarrasses me that we classify people based on something as personal (and, honestly, as legally trivial) as their sexual orientation. It embarrasses me that there are people who will fight against equal rights for anyone. It embarrasses me equally to see the effects of this kind of lack of acceptance, which is a greater than or equal tendency on the part of the marginalized people to identify themselves as that, first.

I understand, I think, why it happens. I support being proud of something rather than ashamed of it. I just don't think it has to be such a Big Deal. Gay marriage--that is a big deal. If being proud of your orientation, being proud to be who you are, if those things are the alternative to feeling marginalized, not taken seriously, and totally rejected, then by all means, be proud. I'm proud. But not because I'm bisexual--I have nothing to do with my orientation; it's just how I am. Can't do anything about it. It'd be like being proud of the fact that I have brown eyes, or brown skin. I'm proud because I'm not afraid of being that way.

In some ways, it seems like just as much as the Scaryotypical Christian Right perpetuates a heteronormative binary, a lot of self-righteous non-straight people work to perpetuate a homosuperior-normative binary. I believe that the correct response to "Straight is Good. Straight is Normal. Straight is the Only Way To Be," is indeed "Nope." But I don't think that it makes sense to go so far as to say "Nope, because actually non-straight is Good, Being Normal is BAD, and therefore anyone who is not straight is better than anyone who is". And in some ways, that seems to be happening.

Anyway. I'm bisexual, but I don't feel at all queer.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Democracy: Kenya does it better than we do.

First of all, I'm glad my Kenya trip was canceled. And if I prayed, I'd pray for Kenya.

Why? Well, because in the face of overwhelming voter turnout, in the face of people waiting in line to vote for more than seven hours, and in the face of bars refusing to serve you if you hadn't voted (hey, that's a good idea...we should get the alcoholism bloc out!), in the face of it all, Kibaki's (the incumbent) party rigged the elections.

Not much evidence as to precisely how, but consider: The count took over 24 hours to perform. Up until the last few precincts reported in, Odinga was overwhelmingly in the lead, but then, eleventh-hour-and-forty-five-minutes, hey presto, the last few precincts had amazing turnout--over 100% in some places--and Kibaki, on their overwhelming support, nosed ahead of Odinga. Protests. More protests. They announced it official, drove over to Kibaki's house to give him his certificate of office, and there he was, sitting with the Attorney General.

I guess they're friends. So, okay. They're friends. And lots of people voted in those last precincts. The thing that strikes me as most damning is Kibaki's subsequent willingness to compromise, and the place that willingness comes to an abrupt halt. What do I mean by that?

After the result was announced, Kikuyu residences and businesses were set on fire. Luo and Kikuyu engaged in violent encounters, and the police have stopped trying to enforce the law objectively as much and become partisan in their own right: hurt an officer? Your family dies. Or some of your family. Certainly you, at least. In the face of all this violence, everyone wants it to stop. No one likes to have the media blacked out, or to be possibly prosecuted for receiving or sending text messages that the government might deem "related to unrest". So let's stop the violence. Odinga has taken the "I'm not talking until you admit you cheated" stance, which seems a bit hard-line. Politicians never admit that they cheated; they just look for a suitably dignified excuse to vacate their office. It seems like Odinga has taken this stance because he's completely convinced at his correctness--he wants a new election, or a recount. The attorney general has called for a recount. Kibaki, though, has started to backpedal. He wants to form a coalition. A unified party. He wants to split the power with Odinga.

If he stood to lose nothing in a recount, or a new election, would he be willing to share power? I doubt it. He's willing to share the power he's got, but only under the condition that he gets to stay in power. That says that he's desperate for any degree of power: he knows he hasn't gotten away with it, and he's angling now to partially get away with it.

If he's willing to cut the baby in half, it ain't his baby.

Which brings me to the larger quandary--if you're truly a democrat (non-capitalized for a reason), then you believe that representatives ought to be the choice of the people via majority vote. Okay. So if you're not their choice, it's not personal. It's not 'cuz they think you have smelly feet, or that you're a Bad Person. I mean, some of them might think that, but if you were really the best person for the job, you'd be in the driver's seat. This is how we assume that democracy works.

So, if you're not the people's choice, why would you want to be president? You're not a president anymore, you're a dictator, a monarch. Who told you that you know better than all the people in the country who voted overwhelmingly for someone else, for something else? (And also, GWB, since when does that mean that you got a mandate from the voters?) Rigging elections is one way to do it, but ultimately you're only rigging them for two reasons: one, to shut the people up, and two, to facilitate your takeover. But you're not being democratic. You've proven to yourself, once you've rigged an election, that you're not in the democracy game. And the people will either do what the U.S. has done--deny it until it's four years old, and then rationalize like hell and be party to its happening again--or they'll do what the Kenyans are doing, and raise holy hell about it.

((Don't get me started about all the ways that GWB cheated, all the ways his first election was unconstitutional. And, anonymous THS student who vandalized and removed my bumper sticker, I hope you choke on it.))

We don't have a democracy--we have a corporatocracy, a bigmoneyocracy, a goodolboyocracy. Doesn't anyone remember their eleventh grade U.S. History class? The reason this country was amazing was that parties stepped down for one another. It's not supposed to be opposing clubhouses, taking potshots. It's supposed to be a bunch of people who all respect one another and also disagree. 'My honored adversary' should be the tone, not 'I will shoot you in the face'. 'How can we make this country better?' should be the question, not 'How can we make those other guys fail?'. When did politics become so personal? When did democracy sell out so completely? The U.S. is messed up, guys, messed up beyond fixing. Let's scrap it, go back to the drawing board. Un-gerrymander the districts, un-draw state lines, take a big old eraser to the Constitution, and start over.

Better yet, let's abolish idiots and bigots, leaving the country to the accepting and kind (irony, anyone?).