I’ve not been shy about how positively I look upon my St. Lawrence experiences. My professors were (and are, bless their patient hearts) integral in me developing into an adult who is willing and able to look at current events and history with a wider angle lens than a small town New England girl. My mentors within the student life realm, again, were and are (bless their patient hearts) integral in developing me into the sort of person with patience and caring for my neighbors. Outside of my parents and my fifth grade teacher (shout out to Mrs. O’Sullivan!) there’s not been an adult (or group of adults) who has more influenced who I am as a human being than the men and women I got to know at St. Lawrence.
Today there was a(nother) shooting at Fort Hood. As I walked in the door tonight I found myself (internally) railing on people who try and deny PTSD is a real and valid … “thing.” The men and women I know who are or have been in the military don’t wake up one day saying, “I wonder what I’m going to do today. I know…” The people responsible for shootings (in general, military in particular) reach a point they feel that’s their only viable option.
Not excusing – in ANY way shape or form – pursuing said option. I think it’s abhorrent and reprehensible. Hurting and killing someone because you’re hurting is never, ever the right answer. While I understand where the need to lash out at something outside your head and heart comes from, there’s really just no way to justify having that something be a living being (animal or human).
For the same reasons it’s cheaper to provide contraception than it is to provide care after the fact, if we can provide our veterans and servicemen and -women with the mental healthcare they need when they get
home that will help prevent such atrocious crimes from happening again. I worry about my friends. I worry about my friends’ families. We worry enough about them when they’re on the front lines. We shouldn’t have to worry about them after they come home.
It’s incredible how deep my thoughts can go in the course of a thirty yard walk.
… To inspire one to get back on the blogging horse. And boy am I filled with it this morning.
I’d written about one of my transformative books on here before – The Giver – but frankly I’m too pissed to look for it on a mobile device so I’m going to assume if you’re so inspired to you’ll go back and look for it. If not, no harm no foul.
Okay. So The Giver. It’s incredible. A dystopian YA novel before dystopian YA novels were an official thing. There’s a utopian society where the community members entrust their feelings and memories to one person, the Giver. The book revolves around the coming of age of Jonas and his classmates as they graduate from the classroom to apprenticeships and on to the careers and roles they will live, breathe and die in for the next sixty years.
The Giver is a literary hipster – dystopian before it was cool to be dystopian.
So far so good, right? Nothing that wouldn’t be what I love. Again, I’ve probably read it dozens of times and I’ve gotten something different out of it every single time.
Enter Hollywood stage right. They’ve gotten their sticky fingers into it and appear to have, fairly promptly, kill some of the most salient and important aspects of the book. Killed them. Killed them dead.
If you haven’t read it, but plan on it, this may be a good time to stop reading this post. Thar be spoilers ahead.
The very first, and likely the biggest, thing that pissed me off: the movie is shot in color. Presumably, if you’re still reading, you’ve read the book so you know that one of the identifiers that pushes the Giver to select Jonas as his successor is that in a world of black, white, and gray Jonas starts seeing flashes of color. This is a huge plot device/fact that should have factored into the movie. After all, think about seeing the red coat on top of the pile in Schindler’s List. A flash of color in a sea of grayscale. Frankly, just thinking about it is getting me a little verklempt.
The are also action sequences in the trailer. Which, while the book isn’t without action in the memories the Giver gives or the world he and Jonas live in, there’s not really any reason that a laser shooting hover scooter thingymabob should feature in the movie, and especially not in the trailer. Because it’s not something that’s a priority.
The last point I have to make is petty, but I’m going to make it anyway: Taylor Swift has billing as more than just an extra in the movie. Her role may be more than flitting through a crowd, but as she doesn’t feature in the trailer – at all – my inclination is to think that she doesn’t actually play a very big active role in the movie.
I would say I’m happy to be proven wrong, because usually I am. I often give movies and books and shows the benefit of the doubt. But this is not something I’m going to give the chance to prove me wrong. I will not give Hollywood ten dollars to watch them decimate one of THE most important books in my life.
Last night’s insomniac perusal of the Internet brought me across this post. Okay. So. :huffs an angry sigh:
We’ll start with the fact, and I’ll be up front about this, I’m not that big a fan of Anonymous. When I read and/or hear about an Anonymous DDOS attack it doesn’t strike me as a group fighting for the greater good, but rather a group of nerds and geeks who are still bitter at the popular kids and wanting to get back at them for every swirly they’d been subjected to over the years.
According to their Wikipedia page, Anonymous is focused on fighting “Internet censorship and control.” These are not horrible things to be focused on. SOPA and PIPA, two bills proposed by the US government in 2011, looked to rein in the freedom of the Internet with the end goal of protecting the profits of massive entertainment and news outlets. In general, the two acts looked to put walls up around the Internet to prevent people from travelling the cyber highways to foreign sites they could download content from before the Powers That Be were ready for said content to be available. That’s a horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE idea. Not protecting the artists – and if the two acts were aimed towards protecting the artists maybe my opinon would be different (or at least more flexible) – but the two acts seemed geared more towards protecting the corporations. And that? That’s a horrible idea.
So, preserving a borderless Internet? That’s a good thing.
However, the methods Anonymous uses are…distasteful to me. To say the least. Their methods are unsavory to the point of bullying. As the first link clearly shows. What could have been a productive start to a conversation, one that actually addressed online misogyny and talked about who is actually creating the rules governing the Internet, ended up as punches thrown back and forth between the feminist crowd and these self-proclaimed Internet police and quickly devolved into a riot of online activists.
Bullying, whether between the Alpha crowd and LGBTQ teens in high school or among the Twitter and other online elite, is unacceptable. And bullying is unquestionably what ends up happening whenever Anonymous rallies its followers against the “feminazis” or any party questioning Anonymous’ goals and methods.
Whether you find yourself on the side of Anonymous or Anonymous’s oposition, hopefully if I’m friends with you we can all agree that bullying is a horrible way to achieve any goal. It didn’t work when we were in the fifth grade, it shouldn’t work as (nominal) adults.
So, here it goes. A friend of mine, a man I was close friends with in college, put up a Lifehack post on the Book of Face about “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.” Included on the list are things like “they don’t dwell on the past,” “they don’t fear alone time,” “they don’t waste energy on things they can’t control,” and, really, the list goes on –at least for another nine bullet points.
I have a few points of my own to bring up about this woman’s list of things that “Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.” My first observation is that she is obviously a woman that doesn’t suffer from major (maybe any) mental health issues. If she did, she would recognize that sometimes, when chemicals are misfiring in our brains, we can’t help what we feel.
I’m a fairly bright individual, I recognize that my life is some kind of cushy. I have friends and family that support me, love me, take care of me and yell at me (if that’s what I need). But when I’m in a low spot, it doesn’t matter how often I hear it or how often friends and family say it – I don’t feel it. In fact, I’m incapable of feeling it and certainly don’t feel I deserve it.
She also sets up this list as thirteen dichotomous points thereby not helping anyone, anywhere. “If you feel sorry for yourself, you’re not mentally strong”; “if you’re afraid of being alone, you’re not mentally strong” – you get the point. Here’s the thing with mental health issues, they’re not something a person can will out of existence.
There are enough stigmas associated with mental health issues, do we really have to stigmatize them even further? People don’t choose to be depressed, AD(H)D or suffer anxiety. It’s insulting to imply that if you find yourself doing any of the things on the list (as opposed to not doing them) that you are mentally weak. Because trust me, when I think back to all the times I didn’t commit suicide, didn’t self-harm, didn’t give up – despite how badly I’ve wanted to – I don’t see myself as mentally weak. So far, I’ve successfully beaten it back, and that makes me mentally strong, but feeling the feelings to begin with doesn’t make me weak.
So, it’s morning and I once again find myself sitting, reading about Stalin, his crimes and, holy cow, dude was scary. The book I’m currently working my way through is Stalin’s Genocides by Norman Naimark, published in 2010.
So I know in the past I’ve talked about historiography, that is the study of how history is written. I feel this is important in general, and when looking into Soviet history in particular.
This, of course, has a point. Well, okay, if you’ve held a conversation with me…ever…you know there’s not really an “of course” about it. But this time I promise it’s true.
In the chapter I’m reading right now, “The Making of a Genocidaire,” Naimark is discussing where the heck Stalin came from and how exactly he became one of the greatest psycho-/sociopaths ever. This is all super interesting to me. I mean, obviously, but reading through not just the text of the chapter but the endnotes, I am struck by the varying sources that Naimark used to generate his early biography of Stalin. What it makes me want to do is trace his sources back to the beginning. After my experience reading Edvard Radzinsky, where he wrote a book based on a lot of hearsay (“this person I talked to in the hall of the archives said it so it must be true”), I’m wondering who or what the root source is for these books – not just Radzinsky, but Naimark (Conquest, Tucker, etc. etc.).
Moral of the story: I spent a lot of time wanting to be an archaeologist. And an historian. Perhaps, through my incessant curiosity about Stalin and wanting to find out the really-reallys of Stalinist Russia, I’ll get to be both.
1937 saw the expulsion of many veterans of the NKVD (that is to say the Soviet Secret Police), including Yagoda – the man who initially led the NKVD – and his staff for “breaches of soviet legality.” (Conquest, The Great Terror, 341)
We’ll leave behind, for the purposes of this post, the incongruity of Stalin and Co. accusing anyone of breaching Soviet legality and touch on the fact Yagoda, and many of his senior staffers, had started as Stalin’s henchmen. While they weren’t the first to enforce famine or send people to prison camps – and obviously they weren’t the last – they had almost always toed the line for Stalin. It wasn’t until Yagoda started being privately and publicly skeptical of Stalin’s actions that his name came up to be shipped out.
Reading what happened in the Great Purges of 1937 and ’38 has been interesting because, while they absolutely affected every person and family in the the USSR – a lot of research particularly in the first half of Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror, focuses on how the purges affected the power classes. However, as Conquest will say – as any Sovietologist will say, really – while the purges were focused on Party leadership, the state policies that governed the rest of the country were equally heinous.
State enforced famine, millions of men, women and children deported to prisons and camps as punishment for asking for more [insert your noun of choice]. Millions killed because they “might” be a threat to Stalin and/or the State – or because they didn’t see Stalin and the State as synonymous. It is sad just how accurate the phrase, “beatings will continue until morale improves” was in the Soviet Union – particularly during the Stalinist years.
In light of this – in light of the absurdly hysterical posturing by Stalin; in light of the unmitigated terror experienced by Russians and other denizens of the USSR from 1925 to 1953 (and, yes, beyond) – instead of complaining about all the areas of opportunity the United States has, instead of complaining about this party, that party, or that other party, just be thankful for all the things we don’t have to be worried about. There are, for sure, a lot of things I think we would all change about this country – not that they’re the same things from person to person, but there are a lot of things. Let’s just be grateful we can grouse and complain about the things we would want to change and this party, that party, or the other party.
Happy Fourth of July, friends. Be grateful, everyday but today especially, that we can bitch and complain to our heart’s content. Stalin is no longer in power (or alive, for that matter) and the USSR has long since disintegrated, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still far too many countries out there where people are punished – severely – or even killed for speaking up and out.
We have it so good here. Let’s remember that.
I did it. I got sucked in by the banner ads calling out, “SIXTEEN DOLLARS FOR NYTIMES HOME DELIVERY AND ALL INTERNET ACCESS WOO!” The problem is, in my haste I didn’t stop to look at the asterisk or the small print. Yeah, $4 a week for the first month and then it goes up from there. Okay. So, now I’m paying $33 a month for a Sunday delivery subscription. With a physical paper that I almost never read (I usually leave it for the folks at Bard to read) and unlimited articles and access to the NYTimes archives and my phone, on my tablet and on my computer. It’s an historian’s wet dream – near unfettered access to contemporary news coverage of some of the biggest world events. Yes, I have been poking in and about to find out what one of the best news organizations in the world was saying about some of the most horrific global events.
But I feel guilty. One, hundreds of printed pages that inevitably get recycled or composted without actually being read. Two, I have the paper delivered to my coffee shop since I spend far more time there than I do at home. Three, it’s not inexpensive. High value, but I wonder – since I’m not reading the physical paper – if it would make sense to drop down to solely a digital subscription. I am still left with the question of whether I do the phone/nytimes.com ($15), tablet/nytimes.com ($20) or the phone and tablet with nytimes.com subscription ($35).
I like the idea of saving money. But I like the idea of having unfettered digital access.
This is unquestionably the definition of a #firstworldproblem. I live in the lap of information luxury. Nobody is telling me what I can or can’t look at and I won’t be arrested based solely on what I choose to research or read. Yet, I can still think of other – better – ways to spend twenty not-claimed dollars a month.
What say you, Interwebs? What do you think about all this?
As discussed previously, I’m writing a book about Stalin. Right now I’m caught up principally in the Great Purges of 1937-38. Robert Conquest‘s The Great Terror, often perceived as one of the preeminent books on the Purges under Stalin, is what I’ve been slowly making my way through in small bites before going to work in the mornings.
To oversimplify a pretty horrific five years (1934-39) Stalin in his ever paranoid wisdom was working on getting rid of anyone who he felt threatened by. Men or women – if you were a part of the Party hierarchy you weren’t safe. Particularly if at some point you had spoken out against decisions that Stalin had made or was making. Stalin had a slew of musclemen who weren’t afraid to brutalize and/or murder and/or psychologically terrify anyone Stalin said to. The vast majority of the men and women arrested during this time eventually caved, admitting to whatever “crime” that Stalin wanted them to admit to. As a result the accused quickly found themselves on their way to the GULAGS (that is to say the network of prison labor camps) or the execution block. However, a couple important movers and shakers didn’t get to either place. They ended up dying by their own hand – although speculation abounds that they were assisted along the way.
The question I’m left with is this: You are speciously accused of a crime. You are tortured to within an inch of your life. You are pressured in every inhuman way possible to confess to a crime you didn’t commit. Your family is threatened. Your friends are threatened. You’re told there’s no end in sight to the torture that will be inflicted upon you if you don’t confess. As a result of these insurmountable pressures, there were some men who chose to take their own lives. Maybe they knew they were going to die, and they wanted some agency so they could control the circumstances in which they were dying. Maybe they just steadfastly refused to confess to a crime they didn’t commit. Either way, they took their own lives. But if you were going to be dead anyway, can taking your own life be considered suicide? Frankly, I’m not sure.
Some coffee shop friends say it doesn’t matter, suicide is suicide regardless of the circumstances. But I can’t help but feel Ordzhonikidze and some others took the higher road. I feel the same about terminally ill patients who say, “I don’t want to go out like this.”
In a review I read by E.A. Rees in an academic journal he says, “If the alternative to suicide is being brutally murdered, is it still suicide?” Frankly, I don’t have an easy answer. I don’t think there is an easy answer. Nor should there be when talking about the death of a human being. I’m interested in what you all think. Can you say that someone taking their own life in lieu of being brutally murdered is “suicide”?
Newsflash: I’m a love-all-the-people liberal. I mean, not so much the pedophiles, murders and rapists, but, you know. everybody else who doesn’t necessarily fall into the stereotypical mold of what it means to be male or female. Especially because what does it have to do with me?
One of my faves at the coffee shop showed me this article about an insanely talented 22-year old basketball player who’s already played in the Olympics, lead her college team to the NCAA championships, runs roughshod over the competition in the WNBA and is the first openly gay athlete to sign an endorsement deal with Nike. And, oh yeah, she’s freaking gorgy. Statuesque, built, and so much confidence and dignity that it’s no surprise at all that Nike signed her. This led to a discussion between the aforementioned fave and I about friends we have who make us sick with their perfection.
This led me to hunt down on Facebook someone that I knew in college. Back in the day, JJ was a cross-dresser/drag queen. The dude had the best legs on campus. Seriously. It was fun to watch him strut campus in his mini skirts. It might have been just the people that I often found myself hanging around with, but it was always nice to just watch JJ walk (no, strut really is the best word for it) and, despite being isolated in the middle of Northern New York, there weren’t cat calls or pejorative name calling or things like that (that I could hear). Granted, I guess there’s a difference between the liberal oasis-ness of a college campus and beyond.
Since graduation, JJ has done the full transition. JJ is now Jasmine. And she is still slammin’. Still the best legs around. And, from the limited pictures I’ve seen, she’s rocking the model scene out in sunny Cali (I think). One of the pictures she has posted on her FB page is a shot of one of her model pictures in an article talking about a lingerie line designed specifically for MtF women.
The lead in talks about this great line created by a “transgender woman.” Which is awesome. Except I long for a day that that doesn’t need to be the opening sentence. Why do there have to be headlines like, “First female CEO for Yahoo!”, “First Female Secretary of State,” “First African-American President,” “First Gay Professional Athlete.” What does it matter what sort of plumbing someone has or what pigment of melanin is in someone’s skin, who they sleep with at night or how many people they sleep with in the course of a night or week?