Listen, My Children...

Every Little Helps

Sunday, November 24, 2002

now just need to figure out how to get the archive to work.

And now we're larger font.



"God will not suffer man to have the knowledge of things to come; for if he had prescience
of his prosperity he would be careless; and understanding of his adversity he would be senseless."

You are Augustine!

You love to study tough issues and don't mind it if you lose sleep over them.
Everyone loves you and wants to talk to you and hear your views, you even get things like "nice debating
with you." Yep, you are super smart, even if you are still trying to figure it all out. You're also
very honest, something people admire, even when you do stupid things.

What theologian are you?

A creation of Henderson

A good friend of mine from years ago just got in touch with me. He's now running www.smokingpipes.com, which is a "secure online full service tobacconist offering handmade briar & meerschaum tobacco pipes, pipe furniture, smoking tobaccos, tinned blends and accessories"; I'd recommend the site to all interested.

Bhaiyya warns me Bob might (unwittingly) just be stringing me along until his family chooses a nice girl for him and he can't find the courage to stand up to them. Bob keeps telling me he'll talk to them, but always chickens out; in effect, it is no different from the man who tells his mistress he's going to ask for a divorce real soon.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Article in FM this week about a bunch of homosexuals kicked out of Harvard in 1920. I think the story isn't being presented well. At the risk of being attacked for hate speech, I think the largest moral of the story is: don't make sex (of any variety) the main focus of your life. One kid spent all his time in onanism and fellatio and whatever else, didn't pass his classes, and got kicked out of Harvard not for homosexuality but for grades. He then killed himself, most likely (according to the story and to me) both because of the Harvard problem and from various aspects of his homosexual lifestyle. He doesn't seem to have been persecuted for it at all -- much like the drug presence at my high school, most people didn't know of it or even think of it, and those involved did it mostly on their own time (but didn't hide it from anyone who wanted to find out), and the people who knew about it but didn't participate (like me) didn't care or at least didn't care enough to say anything unless asked to.

Yes, the students who killed themselves during/after the investigation most likely did so as a direct result of the investigation. The coverup by the University, while understandable, is certainly reprehensible. A demand for an official apology from people who were not even born when all this took place, much less involved in it, however? Ridiculous; as ridiculous as slave reparations or economic reparations to descendants of Irish or Chinese immigrants. For students to be asked to temporarily withdraw (with readmittance after a year) purely because they were aware of what was going on and said nothing -- that is wrong. People knew what was going on with Pomey and Gomes, but didn't say anything, which is wrong, but the most that should have happened to them (now and in 1920) was a severe talking-to. That Harvard later (in more sensible/tolerant/something times) admitted that it was unimportant and purely because of societal association is a good thing, but they could and should have done a bit more while such students were alive.

Students killing themselves (or dying from probable suicides) ten years after the fact? While their treatment by Harvard may have been one part of the problem, I'm sure they had other things going on in their lives. And even their treatment by Harvard varied; several were eventually allowed back in.

But that it's all a product of homophobia and discrimination? The teacher kicked out seduced a student, for goodness' sake. That's enough to get him fired, regardless of the sex of the student. Yes, Harvard recommended that he not be hired as a teacher at a boys' school, because of his demonstrated attraction to teenage boys. Paul Shanley also had a demonstrated attraction to men his age, teenage boys, and pubescent and pre-pubescent boys; the Church is being criticized now for not recommending that he not be hired as someone who works with teenage boys, even after he had been certified "cured." Damned if you do, damned if you don't, I guess.

Many of the students involved were failing their classes. It would take a lot to convince me that this was related to persecution. The teachers seemed shocked to find out what was going on, so the teachers obviously didn't mark them down out of "homophobia" or any such. The students simply spent all their time drinking and having "faggoty" parties (the involved students' word, not mine). Students of any sexual persuasion who spend all their time drinking and having sex parties don't generally do well in class. And they had no need to have such parties. Those students pictures en flagrante delicto (as it were) in FM weekly have no need to behave that way either (lest I be accused of bias). Many students here are chaste; many others have active yet private sex lives. If being a homosexual means having a need to act on sexual desires as openly and frequently as possible, then it is a disorder. It's called nymphomania. The Dancer has shown me that such a characterization is ridiculous. Her sex life is the same (as far as I can tell) as it was when she was straight.

Most interesting are the students who believed that homosexuality was wrong, was a trap in which they were caught, an evil addiction, a temptation, a deadly circle that was hard to leave; one even wrote asking Harvard to help the students out of their habits rather than expelling them. Sounds a lot like the more sensible people I know who believe themselves to have been freed from the evil addiction of homosexuality through a (human or divine) helping hand -- and who am I to question them? Several of the students involved were actually given such a helping hand, one being constantly guarded from relapse by his cousin and eventually being described by his daughter as a "skirt-chaser." Another married his girlfriend, became a father, and decades later described it as the "happiest of marriages." Not forced to pretend to be heterosexual against his will, clearly (and a few students involved did remain single, possibly with relationships, which was therefore obviously an acceptable option); and not eternally bound by an accident of birth to enjoy only relations with other men.

One thing that frustrates me about this article -- and Amit Paley's articles are often very balanced, with a few exceptions, like when he put a column about Fred Phelps in an article about the ex-homosexual movement at Harvard -- is the occasional unwarranted editorializing. A huge amount of work went into the article -- it's investigative journalism at its best -- and just plain reporting would suffice perfectly. Calling everyone "homophobic" only detracts from the story. The administrators clearly thought of homosexual behaviour (especially at this orgiastic level) as wrong, the same way they'd have thought of constant excessive drinking as wrong (and illegal), or heterosexual excesses (orgies), prostitution, or excessive drug use. I doubt they were afraid of these students any more than they would have been afraid of student drunkards or students involved in prostitution. They just (correctly or incorrectly) believed it was wrong and must be punished. Larry Summers has agreed that (at least some of) the actions were regrettable, but that the college has moved on. So should the community.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Crazy. Peter Singer has written a book that looks to be sensible. I'm rather shocked. (but pleased.)

Sunday, November 17, 2002

There was a Cabaret and there was a Master of Ceremonies in a city called Berlin, in a country called Germany, and it was the end of the world, and we were all fast asleep.

Found it! Shall now try my first fisking, on a Cabaret program, of all things. Went to see our student production; in all, it was pretty good, but I've seen better. It was better when I saw it in Germany, actually. This was a bit too overtly profane for my tastes, with large amounts of genitalia-grabbing (own and others') and some nudity. That must be what the college audience demands today, I suppose, but I'd rather it be left up to my imagination. I think Breakfast at Tiffany's would have been crass with Marilyn Monroe as Holly Golightly and clearly a fully functioning call girl; with Audrey Hepburn it was classy and ambiguous.

Speaking of ambiguity, the program from the performance was chock full of moral equivalence. First, the "Directors' Notes":

When the present reality is unbearable, the human instinct is to create a fictitious but seemingly more tolerable reality. Cabaret tels the stories of several characters who create their own worlds, all framed by the world-creating Emcee, who invites the audience to enter into a glamourous and tempestuous construction of 1930's Berlin.

So far, ok; creating a fictitious reality does seem a bit contradictory to me, though. The human instinct would be to build up an illusion of a *definitely* more tolerable reality; it just sometimes (or usually) fails.

It would be easy to look at the characters in this play and judge their actions through the lens of 70 years of history, but situated in the characters [sic] stories is one of every group of people struggling to redefine itself in the face of catastrophe, every individual conforming to the collective allusion [sic] of nationalism.

Ultimately this play is about people making choices, some stronger, some weaker, but none wrong and certainly none right.

It's not wrong to choose to join the Nazi party? It's not wrong to raise public opposition against a man simply because he's Jewish? It's certainly not right to decide not to smuggle for the Nazis? Yes, there are some strong and some weak choices here, with no easy answers -- if you are old and helpless, do you give up everything to marry a man who, by his very nature, will bring destruction upon your head? Should the writer stay in Germany and try to change things, although the effort will be futile, or should he leave and try to change things from abroad? But to say that the play is about choices with morally equivalent answers -- to make the absolutist statement that none of them are wrong and certainly none right -- is ridiculous.

And then the "Dramaturgical Notes":

We all know the story of Berlin, whether we know it or not.

That sentence, logically, is nonsense. Move on, folks, nothing to see here.

After what seemed the final devastation of World War II, the bombed-out and divided yet living shell of Berlin was reconstructed in the American consciousness as a project in Western, democratic, and Capitalist ideology juxtaposed with an opposing project in Eastern European, Communist ideology. These two ideological projects, one an extension of ourselves, one an extension of the "other" as made specific in our construction of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc were separated by a famous wall built in 1961, two years before the premiere of Harold Prince's original production of Cabaret on Broadway.

The play that we present is set in an earlier Berlin, the Berlin of the late Weimar period (c. 1931) when the post-WWI renaissance, which had brought Berlin an unprecedented level of artistic freedom and experimentation along with such liberal reforms as modern Europe's first laws passed to protect homosexuality, was beginning to reel from the growing threats of economic depression and Nazism.

Well, once the insane grammar (or lack thereof) is overcome, the sentence makes a slight bit of sense.

But it is no less a play about our own "Heimat" or homeland, and the world we view from within it, either as it was in 1963, a year when our President was assassinated and a great civil rights movement was in the process of radically reshaping our nation, or as it is now in 2002.

Just as post-WWII Americans partly imagined Berlin as tragic vacuum [sic] into which American ideology could step and infuse new meaning, it may be tempting for us to view the theatrical space and time before us as a vacuum into which we can pour a fantasy, an imagination of Berlin and a cast of characters to inhabit it for us.

But Berlin in the American conception was a part of America at the same time as it was in reality a divided, war-torn city.

And the play that we present tonight, which inhabits the space that our culture has deemed appropriate for it and the time that we ourselves give to it, is about us, our time, our own struggles with things like patriotism, homosexuality, abortion, love, isolation, and discrimination at the same time as it is about the America of 40 years ago and the vibrant Berlin that disappeared into the crisis and apocalypse of world war and holocaust.

(This shall be finished tomorrow) UPDATE: or, when I get my thesis chapter done.

Back -- I think I got them to like me. But had a USAirways experience.... well, Bob's cousin, with whom we were staying, was driving me to the airport, but was over an hour late picking me up. So I miss my flight, but the lady at the desk says I can go standby on the next flight, no charge. Sounds strange to me, seeing as how I'd read about their updated ticket policies, but I wasn't going to argue. Then, in my layover in Philly, as I'm checking in at the desk, the man says I have to pay $100 in standby fees. I wouldn't have paid it anyhow -- I'd have made one of Bob's cousins pay, since they made me miss my flight -- but still I didn't want to bother them and make Bob even grumpier at them. Argued with the guy and finally got him to let me off with a warning, as it were; saying that he wouldn't back-charge me, but that I shouldn't miss flights. I got here; that's all that counts.

Friday, November 15, 2002

(bob's family, that is.)

And I'm off to Florida to meet the family!

Thursday, November 14, 2002

I just wrote a long thing and it got erased. So I'll try again: Some folks in the pages of the Crimson have decided that the decision of the Harvard English Department to cancel the Paulin lecture is "censorship" and a denial of "free speech." I think they've got a bit of a problem grasping what those concepts actually mean. Mr. Paulin has not been forbidden to come to Harvard, with his own means, and speak about whatever he wishes in the public forum without fear of governmental reprisal, which is all that is contained under the concept of "free speech," as far as I know. He can't speak about whatever he wants in my bedroom, or using Larry Summers' stationery, or from the pulpit of Memorial Church, unless asked to, because those things are not publicly accessible. But, if he were not allowed to do speak freely in Harvard's public places, what any other free citizen can do, then his free speech would have been curtailed. A right to free speech, however, does not, as far as I can tell, include a right to be paid to speak. Harvard no more has a duty to host him than it has a duty to host anyone else in the world. If we label situations like this one "censorship" and denial of "free speech," we trivialise such events when they actually do occur. Just like zero tolerance teaches kids there's no difference between giving classmates lemon drops and giving them cocaine, or between shooting up a classroom and drawing a picture of an uncle in the armed forces, or having a G. I. Joe doll, or pointing your finger at someone and saying, "bang," this sort of hysteria teaches people that there's no difference between refusing to pay someone to speak and executing them for disagreeing with your political philosophy.

On second thought, there are grounds for excluding him that would amount to abridgment of free speech rights -- but widely accepted and liberal ones. That is: "hate speech" regulations. Saying that Jews "should be shot" or that he "feels nothing but hate for" American-born Israelis seems to count as "hate speech" -- it would certainly count as "hate speech" were it directed against a currently protected ("persecuted" or "oppressed") minority. Saying they should be shot might actually count as incitement to violence ("fighting words") and be prosecutable outside of the realm of "hate speech." In Canada or the UK, he'd definitely be charged with a "hate crime" because of such statements, were they made against a group of people it's less fashionable to hate -- someone was charged with one because he said Islam was a "stupid" religion, so it doesn't take much!

Bob was in a wonderful mood last night; he called me and made jokes and sounded so cheerful. I hadn't heard him like that in a long time; it was ... exactly what I'd needed. I need to remember that moment and hold onto it if the dark comes again. And I'll see him tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

I need to do a Fisking, just to see if I can. On the lookout.

Also, Meghan's brother is very sick.

Monday, November 11, 2002

I wrote this for myself a while ago; I need it now, and it might do me good to put it up where it can be seen:

Another Day

Another day of your weakness,
another night of your ills,
reviving in me yet again
the fears --
--that you are not strong enough
--that I will not be strong enough
--that some day it will be too much
for either of us to bear.

Another day of my anguish,
another night with tears
instead of sleep.

Then why do I stay,
why do I wait,
why hope, why pray,
why believe?

Because I look at you
and see a future.

Nebulous, to be sure,
but a future nonetheless.
A future of yours, and of mine.

A future without weakness,
a future without ills?
No, not really.

But a future with joy,
and love,
and laughter,
and life.
A future with you.

And so, God helping, I will take
another day
of all you have for me
giving you all that is me,
to do with as you wish,
and praying for strength,

for another day
is a small price
for forever
with you.

(4.15.02)

Bene Diction Blogs On: Be Yours To Hold it High -- beautiful poems for today. For L. M. Montgomery buffs, the "corner of a foreign field that is forever England" poet is the one on whom Walter Blythe is modelled.

Lileks bleats about leftists believing that conservatives (whites all) oppose interracial friendships. Funny how the only opposition I've gotten to my relationship with Bob has come from non-whites or from white liberals. White conservatives, as far as they let me know, think it's great I'm in a relationship that's so good, and usually don't even seem to notice his family background, the rest say I'm stealing Indian culture, say I'm forcing my evil corrupting whiteness on untouched native peoples (oooh that one's entertaining), say I'm a twisted sex fiend, say I'm a perfect example of nefarious neo-colonialism, etc. It's "narrow" for white people to say they don't want to date non-whites seriously, but entirely acceptable for non-whites to say they will never even consider dating anyone outside their ethnic/racial group. Damn racism.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

And we win, all around :) hooray!

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Joy. Person in the Boston Metro complaining about how "exclusionary" it is to mention marital status in reporting on the gubernatorial race. Apparently the knowledge that some people get married is an affront to those barred from marrying the person of their choice, due (I assume) to legal barriers such as two partners of the same sex or within the same immediate family or not within the same species. They claim it is not important for the voters to hear such things either, because of course nobody considers their spouse and kids the most important thing in their lives, and it wouldn't have any bearing on how they govern. Course not.

Of course, democrats trying to cheat their way to victory as usual: Romney complains of voter irregularities in Boston.

Monday, November 04, 2002

"women are far better leaders than men," says some woman speaking at UT, which garners her a headline in the Daily Texan saying, "State representative touts gender equality." Now, it seems to me, you say one is better than the other, you're not saying they're equal. But I might be wrong.

Saturday, November 02, 2002

One of the most sensible and perceptive things I've read recently, from a news article sent me: "the Islamic world's reaction to Falwell's critique of their prophet was starkly revealing. Imagine, if you will, Christians rioting in Kansas or Florida because a prominent Islamic cleric overseas had called St. Paul a fraud."

And something from the Drudge Report -- "Berliners protest move to put 'Jewish' back into street name 11/01/2002 17:39:09
Berlin (dpa) - Crowds of angry residents in Berlin Friday protested attempts to return a road to its pre-Nazi-era name of Jewish Street, with several shouting, ``The Jews have made us suffer enough.'' "

The "No on 2" people are just out of it. Their two main points: 1) Proposition 2 entirely gets rid of bilingual education, which will leave scads of kids unable to learn English or learn anything in school or function at all in society ever; and 2) Proposition 2 makes it so that teachers who help out a child who even just asks for the meaning of one word in his native language can be sued. Balderdash.

To begin with, if you read the actual ballot proposition, you can see that, for just one example of why the "No on 2" campaign is pure spin and little fact, "a teacher could use a minimal amount of a child’s native language when necessary." Kid says, "was heißt 'argue'?", the teacher can give the German word. But wait, Boston has no program for German immigrants. Guess they're not enough of a special protected minority. You can sue if your African dialect isn't represented among the translators at the hospital, but you can't get this apparently extremely necessary help in school if your language isn't haitian, spanish, korean, mandarin, or portuguese. Anyhow, switch my example to one of the special languages, and the point still stands -- you're only disciplining the teachers who entirely refuse to use English when speaking to the children.

They argue that students will be "isolated" and (gasp -- evil word alert) "segregated" into English immersion classes and will be unable to interact with other non-immersion students. True, there are proposed separate English immersion classes, but they would last at maximum no more than a year. So the student would function as if he joined the school a year later, in terms of social life. Normally, even, "Once a student is able to do regular schoolwork in English, the student would be transferred to an English language mainstream classroom." Basing this on my experience with several people in such a situation, that should take perhaps even just two months (or less, if the student already knows some English).

And as for the total abandonment of bilingual ed? As reported in The Harvard Crimson, "Even if Question 2 does pass, there are ways around its restrictions. Parents could request waivers if they want their children to attend bilingual classes—and Cambridge school officials say the district will actively encourage parents to obtain these waivers if Question 2 passes." If your kid can't manage to learn English through immersion, and he happens to speak one of the top-five-immigrant-languages, he will go directly into the bilingual ed course, which will still exist. There are many many articles put out by the "No on 2" crowd saying that so-and-so's native English-speaking kid was put in a bilingual course and learned Spanish that way, and he would have been denied that opportunity otherwise. Umm, no. As long as he either already speaks English (which he does) or is already 10 years old if he doesn't speak English, his parents can request a waiver and put him in bilingual ed. Understandably, there has to be significant demand for bilingual programs -- they're not going to run the program for 2 students -- but, if your school doesn't have one, you'll be able to send your kid to another school that does. That is, if you're in the Top Five.

And suing teachers? Who is suing teachers? According to the ballot: "A parent or guardian could sue to enforce the proposed law [. . .] Parents or guardians of a child who received a waiver based on special needs could sue if, before the child reaches age 18, they discover that the application for a waiver was induced by fraud or intentional misrepresentation and injured the child’s education." So, pretty much, the parents decide if they want their kids to be in an English immersion program (that is, if they're in the Top Five -- otherwise, they have no choice but immersion), and if the school uses its greater power to override their choice, they can sue. Makes very good sense to me. Just doesn't give the schools absolute power, so they're mad. Like they're mad when you try to exempt your child from sex ed classes like the one here in Mass where it's pretty much a hardcore-sex instruction course, with the final line being, now go try it yourself!

But does bilingual education work? from the very limited English ability of several graduates of such programs who I've met, I'd say not. But won't immersion be hopeless for people who don't speak any English at all? (Some people have tried to argue that immersion will be hopeless for people who already speak a fair amount of English, but I think that argument is specious enough to ignore.) Well, from my own example: at age 16, with no knowledge of German, and with only a few people around me who spoke German and very very little help in school, I learned German fluently in a few months, and functionally in two months, by full immersion. They say it's easier when you're younger, too. My kid brother, at age 3, learned French (at the level of a regular three-year-old, of course) pretty fast at his French Montessori school in England. He hadn't even been there for a few weeks when he started dropping French words in his babytalk conversations at home. And nobody in our family speaks French, so he didn't have help from his parents! I went to the American School in London, and we had a huge number of limited-English students come every year. There were far too many languages for the school to provide "bilingual learning" classes, even if they had wanted to, so students went to ESL classes. First they went frequently, then they would gradually cycle into regular classes (generally within their first month), with ESL pretty much functioning as after-school language tutoring. It was a very quick program, and students were fluent within a few months. Seems to work much better than bilingual ed.

But what of the complaint, most reasonable of all I've heard, that the greatest thing lost by abandoning bilingual ed is that kids will be ignorant of their native language and of their country's culture and history and customs? It is an understandable worry. My Indian friends, including Bob who went to school not speaking a word of English but is just fine now, and many other such whose parents speak little or no English at home, are at varying places along that spectrum. The onus here is on the parents, not the schools, however. If the parents, like the Indian Dancer's parents, refuse to allow English spoken at home, the children will remain accent-free and fluent in their native language, as well as in English. If their parents speak no English at home but allow it in their children, the children will probably have an accent and be something less than fluent, just like the graduates of bilingual ed are in English. If the parents speak a mixture, adding more English as the years go by and they become more comfortable with it, like Bob's, or those of most people in my Hindi class, the children will be able to understand most things in their parents' language but probably not speak very much. It's all up to the parents. Same with history and culture and so forth. If the parents retain any of the cultural trappings, the kids will be aware of them; if the parents import a grandmother, the kids will have a treasure trove of culture and history. The parents can also teach the kids history, like my Taiwanese roommate's parents did, but only if they know it themselves. If they don't know it, they obviously don't find it important to know -- and, if they do, they can foster an interest in independent learning in their children. Plus (as with the Taiwanese roommate), learning it from someone who has lived in the country can be a lot more accurate than the p.c. spin it would be given at Boston schools. Our neighbor, Shazam, in London, who called herself a Muslim but said she'd never want to live in Pakistan again because of the way women are forced to live... that wouldn't show up in school. Of course, some of the trappings of bilingual ed should remain, but be expanded to all. My elementary school had a Chanukkah celebration, and a Chinese New Year one, and a Dia de los Muertos celebration, and so forth; schools should have cultural celebrations representing all groups present at the school or in the society. It's a good thing!