Saturday, November 15, 2008

There's more to life than annotated bibliographies

Once again, major thanks are due to Molly for providing just the right video to get my head back in the right place on a day when Foucault was on the verge of souring me on this whole thesis.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Guantanamo: We must learn the truth and remember it always

Barack Obama has declared that he will close down the detainee facilities at Guantanamo Bay, but that long-overdue act will mean very little if we never find out what occurred there or if we are allowed to forget.

The place and the records must be preserved so that future generations may be reminded of a time when America strayed from its ideals. Justice demands that we cry out, "Never again!" We owe it to our children to preserve what we would prefer to deny, so that the lessons of the past will never be forgotten.

Our next president has asked us to all take part in the work of changing this country for the better. He has invited everyone to share their input here:

I just sent him the following message, and I would encourage everyone who feels the same way to add your voices.

Dear President-Elect Obama,

Everything about the situation at Guantanamo Bay makes it one of the most shameful things in American history, and I do not doubt that you will restore justice and human rights to our nation by ending that disgrace. What I would ask is that when you close the down the prison camp at Guantanamo you do not let it be erased from our history. End the unlawful detention of the men held there, reaffirm the rule of law by giving them due process and fair trials, and close down that legal black hole, but do not bulldoze the prisons, do not allow the records of what happened there to be destroyed, and give the American people a chance to the know the truth about what was done in our name.

Although it is painful, the world benefits from being forced to remember such tragedies and constantly declare "Never again." It was only through the hard work of the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps that those sites were persevered to be memorials. Although its location makes it unlikely that schoolchildren will ever be able to walk those grounds and learn first-hand the lessons of one of the dark moments of American history, it is your responsibility to preserve as much as possible and allow the American people to know the truth of what happened there, no matter how much we would prefer to deny our sins.

This country is in great need of change, but it will be a great injustice if the restoration of this nation's dignity involves denial of the errors that made that change necessary.

Thank you

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yes We Can... Be Inspired

As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I have been working on Lord Byron's poem "Darkness" for one of my grad school courses, and it has been on my mind so much that I've internalized it to a degree. Over the last few days I have occasionally found myself reshaping Byron's apocalyptic vision into a vision of Obama-inspired hope, and then I decided to just go ahead and actually write something. I drew heavily on Byron's poem and composed this re-imagining of "Darkness":

Light Returns

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
Eight years of darkness ended, and the stars
That had been mere pinprick spots of Hope,
Brightened, and grew, and the icy prospects
Of our country were thawed by Change in the air;
Morn came and the people brought about a new day,
And men remembered their passions and their dreams
Of this their country; and all hearts
Were warmed into a hopeful prayer for Change:
And they did live that change--and the desks,
The offices of the powerful—the homes,
The many homes at risk of being lost,
Were turned into beacons; cities were inspired,
And men who had gathered to cast their votes
Looked once more into each other's face;
Happy were those who'd felt eight years
Of fear invoked to trample down their rights:
A glowing Hope was all the world contained;
Jobs were still in danger—and hour by hour
They fell and faded--and the banking firms
Extinguished with a crash—but there was Hope.
The brows of men by the growing light
Wore the marks of their troubles, as they worked
To make the country whole again; they'd not lie down
And hide their eyes and weep; and some did rest
A moment to see what they had done, and smiled;
And others hurried to and fro, and backed
Their words with deeds, and looked out
With resolute Hope on the wounded land,
The pall of the past eight years; and then again
With passion cast them back into the work
For healthcare and a living wage: the right-wing shrieked,
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And spout their useless hate; the red states
Came together with the blue; and they united
And twined themselves to form one country,
No longer hopeless—they were America again.
And the war, which had done so much ill,
Was finally brought to an end;—the mistake was bought
With blood, and each sat and remembered
The brave who had been thus misled into gloom;
All earth was but one thought—and that was Hope,
Immediate and in the future; and the pang
Of the past fed their drive for Change—men
Would work to end the tragedy in which
The meager for the rich were devoured,
The country had assailed its people, all were wronged,
And none could trust that secrecy which kept
The press and anyone with questions at bay,
Till they gave up, and thus their actions had
Disdained all laws; himself sought no consensus,
But with a vicious and perpetual drive,
And a will to unchecked power, spurning Congress
Which answered not with censure—he was done.
The crowd was angered by degrees; but two
Republicans did present themselves,
And they were desperate: they met beside
The boardrooms and ill-used altar-places
Where had been heaped a mass of fear
For their usage; they raked up hatred,
And angrily flung their most divisive words at those
Who wanted change, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then the people lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
That Hope was real—saw, and turned away—
Even of their savage attacks they lost,
Unknowing that the people were tired of hearing men
Who called each other Fiend. The world was energized,
The populous and the powerful would unite,
Thoughtful, careful, truthful, purposeful, hopeful—
A land of Hope—the Change we needed.
The radio, TV, and papers all were still,
And for a moment all was silent thought;
The sun rose over the White House,
And a new government took shape: as it changed
The country's reputation surged—
Guantanamo was closed; the soldiers were brought home,
The mission they should have been on was achieved;
The country had security and civil rights,
And the economy recovered; Obama led the Change
They needed—Hope restored America.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hope is real

When Barack Obama announced his candidacy, my first thought was, "He would make a great president. What a shame that the system is stacked against him."

When he won the Iowa caucuses, I was overjoyed and filled with enthusiasm, thinking that politics and dreams might not be irreconcilable.

After the New Hampshire primary, I felt the status quo reasserting itself, and my spark of hope was almost extinguished by the cynicism that I had learned from seeing politics work as a machine for crushing dreams for my entire adult life.

I kept that spark of hope alive, and on Super Tuesday I caucused for Obama. The sight of dozens of Obama supporters filling that room was the fuel that brought that gave that spark a chance to take hold. I volunteered and was selected to be one of the alternate delegates for Obama to the county convention.

I left for my trip to Europe in August full of pride and confidence that Change was on its way.

I returned shortly after the RNC to discover that the selection of Sarah Palin had incomprehensibly shift the polls toward McCain. The ghosts of the last two elections came back to haunt me, and I felt a gnawing fear that our democracy would once again disappoint me.

I resolved to resist my pessimism and trust that the American people would eventually see through the illusion of Sarah Palin as a legitimate candidate.

As Election Day drew near, I felt a fear of the TV election coverage that had its roots in the traumatic memories of two previous November evenings. The thought of watching states turn colors on a computer generated map made my stomach clench. The two states where I have lived (Colorado and Indiana) were both states that I had only ever seen turn red on those maps. Although victory could be achieved without either, the memories of watching the networks call them for Bush made me sick with dread.

There was no nightmare, and my hope was vindicated. I embraced the best friend with whom I had discussed every twist and turn of the campaign, lifting him up when he grew fearful and drawing on his passion when my own hope grew faint. I even shed a couple of tears of joy and relief while I watched Obama address that crowd that seemed to stretch forever.

Smiles keep coming to my face unbidden, goosebumps of excitement rise on my arms without warning, and my heart feels warm. This is what it feels like when a dream comes true, and I hope that we can make this feeling last forever.