Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Get rid of this on Google!!!

Hey, all -- this site: triple-double U martinlutherking dot org is a link to a white pride (Stormfront) version of Martin Luther King's life and works. Please link to this Martin Luther King site instead. Thanks for the help!

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Too Little Time, Too Much To Do

Hence the lack of blogging. I can't do it from work (inappropriate use of state equipment), and I have no time at home. At least not until I turn in my book review and write a couple of lectures and get ready for my observation ...
I suppose that's another way to keep from becoming too depressed about Iraq. Oh -- but I have to say one thing about it. I don't look at the pictures. I won't, if I can help it. I will not be looking for the decapitation footage. I think that that's just not good for the soul.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Life is not an Essay Exam

But sometimes we act as if it were. There are a ton of smart bloggers out there. Lots of them are smart academic bloggers. Some of them blog exclusively on academic life, others blog on broader topics. Those who write about life in the academy approach it from different angles -- many from within, many more from the marginal existence of contingent faculty life, and more than a few having left academe behind. In fact, the latter has taken up Rana is one of the most recent to go. Like the Invisible Adjunct, Rana was unable to find tenure-track employment in her field. More surprising is Erin O’Connor’s departure – at least from the standpoint that she was a tenured faculty member. What isn’t surprising is that, as a critic of the many things wrong with the way colleges and universities are run, she decided to opt out.

Among those who haven’t left are the folks at Cliopatra, a group of scholars that actually includes someone I’ve known for all of 17 years, and the folks at Crooked Timber, many of whom I wish I knew. I read most of these people’s blogs fairly religiously, and comment frequently. I admire their writing skills and use the fact that they blog to excuse my own attempts, always hoping that no one thinks I’m a complete idiot. I also tell myself that reading good writing and writing more myself will help to keep me on track. I’m contingent faculty, you see. My community is therefore limited to the institution of the moment (or, in this happy case, the academic year on a pro rata contract). So I blog and read blogs.

Lately, however, I’ve found myself reading and commenting far too much. I have work I should be doing, yet I am drawn to my peers’ comments on the world around us. I have a review due next week. I have midterms to correct. I have a garden, dammit! I also have two new preps and, since a class was cancelled, an online course to develop by June. Oh – and a grant proposal, and two committees that actually require work. So what the hell am I doing? I want a TT job. I have the opportunity to move in that direction and pad my CV. Can blogging be bad for academics? Am I addicted?

And then it hit me. No. Most of us will have had conversations with colleagues over the last three years – and especially since talk began about invading Iraq – about reasons for low enrollments, students having trouble focusing, students missing class and being treated for depression. I’ve never had a problem believing the folks who claimed that much of it was due to the additional stress of our wartime world. I just never really thought about how it affected me.

These last couple of weeks have been especially awful. We all know it. Stories like this (don’t look if you are trying to avoid pictures) pushed me into a big ol’ morass of navel contemplation. So my blog reading has gone way up. No more just the mutual support of the “life in academia” blogs. Nope – it’s all Iraq and Bush, all the time. It seems to me that I’m not the only one to be doing this, either. Comments and trackbacks bloom in colorful and maddening profusion. Why this upswing? And then it hit me: because you’re an academic geek, doofus. Our students may just stop coping, but we have coping mechanisms. We have learned to argue our points with evidence! We know how to do research! We are used to taking information that might seem to be unrelated and make sense of it! We can do it! We have the technology! If we just do our homework, we can make sense out of this mess! So we read what the people we’ve come to trust and ‘know’ say about the subject, hoping to add to our own knowledge and perhaps validate our own conclusions. We add to the discussion. And finally, we realize that we’re using our training to cope in the only way we can, by trying to make reason out of the unreasonable. Or at least that’s my story.

One of the great things about being a trained historian is learning to recognize biases. I’d like to think it also helps us recognize when we’re spinning our wheels. I have recognized my coping mechanism, and I understand it. Now I can get back to work.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Link to US Treasury press release
(for those who went to the WA caucus the other day)

Why I worry about June 30 or, a lesson not yet learned

We're supposedly handing over sovereignty. Sovereignty means the new Iraqi government can then demand the US leave, and we would have to do that. Or is there some other kind of sovereignty? We haven't left Afghanistan yet. It's a multi-national force there, but one that seems underfunded and that is propping up a government without any real power against the same old warlords.
Six months ago, after being bullied by her in-laws, his daughter, Mallali Nurzi, 26, soaked herself in petrol and struck a match. Alerted by her screams, Mallali's young daughter discovered her mother writhing in flames. By the time the fire was extinguished, Mallali was burned all over. It took her 24 hours to die. In a suicide note to her parents, she explained why she had chosen such a horrific end. "Her husband's family were treating her like an animal," said Mr Shah [her uncle], tears trickling down his cheeks. [... ]
A government mission sent to investigate the problem in Herat, the biggest city in the country's west, reported that at least 52 young, married, or soon-to-be married women had burned themselves to death in the city in recent months. The youngest was a 13-year-old bride-to-be.

If a tragedy like the increase of self-immolation among young women can go on under occupation in a place where we supposedly were victors, can it bode well for Iraq?

Oh my. It's even worse. As I went to look up the link for the above story, I saw this:
Three young girls in eastern Afghanistan were in critical condition in hospital last night after being poisoned, apparently by militants as punishment for attending school.

Is this what the restoration of freedom looks like? Bastards. June 30th. Think about it.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Link to US Treasury press release