Activism, Life Rants

Bad Dreams

This week brought to you by vivid dreams about drowning in water parks and having incredibly detailed screaming fights with members of my family (admittedly the latter isn’t always an invention of my unconscious).

Among other things, last week’s shitshow of a Supreme Court hearing has really gotten under my skin.  Accompanied by a sense of doom ahead of November’s midterm elections, this hasn’t been great for my psyche (or the tension headaches that lie in wait when they can sense I’m feeling overwhelmed).

I don’t have anything to add on the Kavanaugh hearings and the composure of Dr. Blasey Ford that hasn’t been said by others much more eloquently:  here, here, and here to name a few.  But (geographically) closer to home another disturbing political development has been on my mind.

This weekend saw my alma mater, Kent State, unwillingly become a rallying place for ahem, “grassroots” gun rights activists very much sponsored by extremist right-wing groups.

Coverage of the event is detailed by the student news site, Kent Wired:  http://www.kentwired.com/latest_updates/article_998c22ac-c597-11e8-a33d-bf61db148c4d.html

If the name Kent State is familiar to you, it’s likely because of the infamous Kent State shootings of 1970 in which members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire on students protesting the Vietnam War, fatally wounding 4.  As a place of historic importance, the area where the shootings occurred looks almost identical to its appearance in the 1970s, and there is a center on campus dedicated solely to educating students and visitors about the tragedy.

Of course I take issue with the idea that more guns are needed on college campuses in light of the number of students who have opened fire on their classmates in recent years.  And of course I take issue with the idea that the so-called Constitutional right to bear arms should receive so much coverage when the growing number of college students who are homeless or regularly go without enough food are much more pressing concerns for anyone in higher ed.

But honestly it’s most concerning to me that some of the protest signs suggested the Kent State shootings could have been prevented if the victims had been armed.  I understand this type of statement is meant to provoke outrage rather than make sense, but to me nonviolent protest is an integral part of democracy and the identity of the United States.  Civil disobedience is a value to strive for rather than scorn–whether or not those participating in acts of civil disobedience receive civil treatment in return.  I find it disturbing on a fundamental level that the appropriate response to threats of violence seems to be more threats of violence.

If there’s one silver lining here in a very troubling story, it’s that many students on campus expressed opposition or annoyance in response to the protestors.  Students rallied with signs and chants, forming a human wall to prevent the march from proceeding across campus.  As a librarian, my favorite response was one student’s sign indicating outrage that the library was closed as a safety precaution.  Image is on Twitter:

 

Stay golden, library sign boy.

Featured image by Michael Weidner on Unsplash
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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Meet John Doe, or: I Protest!

This week’s film wraps up the pseudo-Christmas theme of the month and another year(?!!??!) of the Blog Collab.  If I had realized that, I might have picked something more in line with horror and/or film noir since those are the essential genres of this blog…though we still get a touch of horror from this week’s frequently too real selection.

The Film:

Meet John Doe

Where to Watch:

Internet Archive (yes—this one is in the public domain [along with Santa Claus Conquers the Martians])

The Premise:

A newspaper columnist and an unemployed all-American type unintentionally kick off a political movement with the publication of a fake suicide letter.

The Uncondensed Version:

Newspaper columnist Ann is out of work and desperate to hold onto the salary that supports her mother and younger sisters.  Since she’s lost her job but still needs to write one final column, she writes an imaginary suicide note from a man protesting the state of civilization.  Fair enough, honestly.

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The face you make when you can’t say what you’re really thinking to a manager.

This John Doe will jump off a building on Christmas Eve to make his statement—a statement that apparently resonates with many Americans who see the letter in print.  With her job back, weekly column reinstated in the form of letters from John Doe, and a story quickly becoming headline news, Ann is determined to keep a good thing going.  She schemes with the newspaper execs to find a real John Doe to draw even more public attention.

This, of course, is Gary Cooper, who used to play baseball but is now homeless.  At first, John merely needs to pretend he’s the man behind the letters, but soon the paper and the people ask more and more of him.  As his friend the Colonel warns him, “when you become a guy with a bank account, they’ve got you.”

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Movies are the only times when you should listen to the conspiracy theorist.

John gains an ever-increasing following that starts a political movement.  He refuses to identify with either major political party, so John Doe Clubs sprout up all across the country.  Buttons and signs with John’s face and inspirational messages about being a good neighbor are suddenly everywhere…which means someone will inevitably try to capitalize on the situation.  Obviously things fall apart when wealthy political wannabes get involved…which is just way too real even 70+ years later.  Damn it, Frank Capra.  Too on the nose.

Oh, also there’s a romantic subplot because it’s Frank Capra.

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Yay for…on-screen relationships with zero chemistry?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a Frank Capra film, so there’s a strong optimism underlying the story along with an idealization of the all-American underdog, and a commitment to doing right even when everyone else thinks you’re wrong.  Many of the themes and story elements present in other Capra movies are here too, but they come across as a bit rehashed and less defined.  This feels like watching the 10th or so Woody Allen movie about infidelity and failed relationships–Jesus fucking Christ, dude, we get it.  There were also a shitload of baseball references I didn’t understand.

IDK if it was a good decision to watch this around Christmas because It’s a Wonderful Life is one of my absolute favorites.  I inevitably compared Gary Cooper to Jimmy Stewart, and I just don’t think he has the natural charm and squeeze-ability of J-Stew.  Gary Cooper feels more tough and reserved like later Jimmy Stewart, but I find earlier Jimmy more fun and sweet to watch.  It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway—Barbara Stanwyck is great in this.  This just doesn’t grip me like some of Capra’s other work.  It’s very possible that I’ve become too cynical to enjoy things anyway.

Would Christa stand up to the Man with this one or take the $50 and run?  Find out here!

Activism, Life Rants

Some Thoughts of a Political Nature: Orlando and EURef

If you are like me, you are so sick of all of this political bullshit because you care about it so much more than you want to.  It’s vital to have some political awareness, but it also hurts, like getting a colonoscopy or going back to work after your vacation.  As such, I will take a page from John Oliver’s book and reward you for reading this post with an adorable picture of a puppy and kitten who are best friends at the end.  Oh, what the hell—you can just skip to the end now if you really want to.

I didn’t write anything about Orlando because I didn’t know what to say.  Don’t know what to say.  There are levels of hatred beyond words.  I still can’t organize my thoughts enough to say something about my unwavering support of the LGBTQ community and Latino-Americans, shame in the victimization of Muslim, and anger that the right not to be murdered in a public place takes a backseat to the “Don’t Tread on Me” gun-toting mentality of fringe groups in the U.S.

These are a few recent experiences I’ve been processing in that context:

Someone I know (I’m keeping this all as anonymous as possible) admitted her LGBTQ son may be attending the Catholic University where I work (keeping it super vague because I’m not sure exactly how he identifies).  And she is afraid.  Many of the faculty and staff are open-minded and supportive, but some of the students are so conservative and unsympathetic.  Perhaps that’s the way people have always been, but I’ve really experienced such a lack of sympathy for those in pain, those who are different, and those who aren’t well understood lately.  There’s no room for sympathy where there’s hatred, which is what concerns me the most.  And that kind of hatred leaves such a lasting impression on young people.

There was a wheelchair outside the women’s bathroom in the library, which was a bit strange, but I went inside anyway.  Inside the bathroom was an older man just outside the handicapped stall, who immediately rushed to explain, “I’m just helping my wife, who’s in a wheelchair.  I’ll wait outside.”

I said, “That’s okay—it doesn’t bother me.”  But he left anyway, which was considerate but heartbreaking.  I’m embarrassed that we are so shamed about acting appropriately for our gender that a man helping his wife in the bathroom feels like a criminal for doing so.

Men, how can you not be feminists when the patriarchy dictates what you should do and how you should behave too?

On another political note, since everyone in the world has a goddamn opinion about it, I may as well weigh in on the EU Referendum (I refuse to use the “Brexit” word because it’s stupid and sounds like a horrible type of cereal.  John Oliver is with me on this one).  I know the world wants the opinion of another Midwestern American.

I admittedly have a very selfish interest in seeing the British pound retain its value because the sale of my grandfather’s London house is finally supposed to go through in July.  This is the only time I’m pissed about the dollar being strong compared to the pound.

What concerns me the most is the anti-immigrant platforms that have been so successful in the UK and the US.  I did talk to one of my students about the EU Referendum, and how enraging and small-minded it is for the anti-immigrant mentality to persist.  We are so interdependent—our economies, our political decisions, our lives.  Like all empires (and don’t get me wrong, I include the US in this), a slight majority of the UK has had a convenient memory lapse about what it has taken from other countries and what immigrants have brought to the UK.

I’m avoiding reading all of those click-bait articles of reasons the EU Ref is a good sign for Trump because they make me panic.  A man who has been like a grandfather to me went on a bit of a rant about Trump being a Democrat conspiracy to destroy the Republican Party (had to bite my tongue before responding “I think they’ve done fine on that without any outside help whatsoever”).  He also asked if I thought the country was getting worse and, in spite of the bigoted and completely irrational groups on the rise, I don’t.  Our systems are deeply flawed, but we live in a country that is more open, more diverse, and more creative than it ever has been.  How can that possibly be a weakness?

Anyone else in the mood for a political tangent?  Feel free to rant/despair/agree/disagree on this blog.  Just remember there is a person on the other side of the screen.

As promised, here is the picture of adorable puppy and kitten BFFs.

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I bet no one cares if this dog and cat are gay, lesbians, transgender, Muslim, Hispanic, and/or immigrants

Images in this post via Unsplash