Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Update, 8-14: this post got nominated as a Just Post for a Just World! Thanks, Holly!

At an antiwar march, circa late '60's-early '70's, Dad had an epiphany from mis-hearing the crowd's synchronized cries to end the fighting in southeast Asia. "Peace - NOW, Peace - NOW," they shouted in time to their waving fists, swinging back in the air with each "Peace" and forwards with each "NOW".

Dad looked around and, for a moment, thought he was in the middle of a ragtag parade in Nuremberg. The forward motions of everyone's arms had an outstretched hand, fingers together, instead of a fist. The protest for peace had become "Sieg -HEIL" to his unbelieving ears.

It was the beginning of his disillusion with marches as effective forms of protest. Not to say that he doesn't believe in pointing out the idiocy of our leaders when it comes to that, or how insane people's attitudes towards the sciences these days are. He's simply more likely to be trying to marshal the already converted or the more-likely-to-be-converted with letters, emails, and citations of evidence to support his views, like most any scientist (or any individual with half a brain) worth his/her salt does. It does you no good if you are in prison for your beliefs, just speak up only when you have to and pick your battles carefully.

Then again, Dad is a human being. Sometimes he'd get so mad, the barely passive-aggressive behavior would come out - like the time he got so incensed at the electric company sending him a late notice threatening disconnection if his payment was late when he'd already sent the payment. He decided not to pay it at all for a couple of months, which led to the lady taking care of my then-infant brother shooing representatives of the electric company out of our backyard for a while. His knee-jerk reactions to some things can be at best irritating and at worst scary. But hey, life can be unpredictable, and my dad can be just as unpredictable right back at it.

We all want to be able to plead our cases against injustice, idiocy, and stupidity as sanely and as calmly as possible in order to be taken seriously. It's certainly what my grandmother tried to teach me and, on occasion, beat into me as a child: little girls especially should be seen and not heard. God help you if you are too loud, too assertive, and, sin of all sins, too prone to lose your temper as a young woman.

And things are still that way...even if you are a woman nominated for the Supreme Court:
The hearing was a performance of a broader set of social rules that govern race and gender interactions in American politics. Women, and most especially black and brown women, have to prove their fitness for public life by demonstrating the ability to endure harsh brutality without openly fighting back. The ability to bear up under public degradation is a test of worth. America's favorite black woman heroine is Rosa Parks, a woman who is remembered as silently enduring the humiliation of being ejected from a public bus for refusing to comply with segregated seating.

Sotomayor passed the test. She met the Senators' questioning with thoughtful responses. Her voice did not quiver. Her face did not scowl. Many women of all races feel inspired by her. But I wonder about this lesson that continues to teach women that we can only have space in the public realm as long as we control all emotion.
I wonder about this quite a bit, myself, as something has come to my attention regarding blogging and social justice...namely, a blogger's vulnerabilities.

There are loads of reasons to speak out, certainly, about misconduct and the way things really
work...but the consequences of doing so are too great for too many. Though this is indeed worrisome, it is a fact of life. The internet is becoming a place with a higher profile, and with that higher profile comes more of a realization that the monitor you view the typing and publishing of your posts on is not one-way glass. It is best to keep in mind that, though many employers are using the internet as a tool to help them weed out candidates for positions, they may not be as thorough in their background checks due to being pressed for time. In such situations, a creative outlet or a virtual place in which one can blow off steam can be a liability.

There are creative solutions to such problems without having to give up the blogging: anonymity, clever disguising of real-life situations, password protecting those posts that might be incriminating, or not putting those situations into your posts at all. When a job is involved, these are things that must be weighed.

I personally find that having a child in my care puts even greater emphasis on the latter of the four solutions described above. Since the closure of my son's school due to a case of the swine flu amongst the students, the name of his school has been fully unmasked. Though I would like to rail against the school for a number of things that have been going on there in the past year, I have to balance out the knee-jerk feelings I have to expose all the dirty laundry there in the name of change and a touch of spite (and maybe not necessarily in that order, considering the nature of my reactions sometimes) with the facts of the positive things the school has done and still does for my child, and with my belief that there are still some things that can be changed from within. I don't want to jeopardize his education - and the fact that we aren't paying out the nose for it - for the world until it really doesn't seem to be working for him. This doesn't mean I won't be blogging about any schools in the area...just not the one he's attending.

To get a bit biblical about it, the Tanakh speaks of "every man being put to death for his own sin". This world doesn't quite work that way. My son could well suffer for what I write.

And though I really really want to change how that works, I must pick my battles ever more carefully.

It's a lot to chew on.

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