Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Trouble With "Stand Your Ground" Laws

Hey, that's my local newspaper! Yeah, I kinda disagree with this, even though I truly appreciate the sentiments it meant to convey.

See, I think that what the cartoonist is describing as "the trouble" is really the intended effect of these laws. If the institutionally racist system can't remove you from society using all sorts of draconian prison sentences, then it must find some other way to neutralize those perceived as threats to the socio-political hierarchy.

If you break a law, then they can take you and make you into a modern-day slave in a private corporation's prison facility. However, some of us are going to manage to avoid that fate. I've never had so much as a traffic or parking ticket. I'm so cautious that it drives my husband insane. You can honk your horn at me. You can ride my bumper. You can flip me off and swerve around me, but I will NEVER go above the speed limit. But how many people can do that? My avoidance of any kind of criminal record is more dumb luck than anything else, because you don't have to be doing ANYTHING to wind up sitting in a police car with your head cracked open from a billy club.

The "Stand Your Ground" laws are one of society's methods of culling the clever undesirables. Folks like Trayvon posed an even greater threat to the system than some kid who has been in and out of juvenile jails half of his life. The kid with the prison record is already cut off from almost anything beyond minimum-wage level jobs. The kid with no record will probably graduate from high school and can qualify for financial aid to go to college. With a degree or two or three, he would have an advantage over many of those who belong to a culture that is used to automatic preferential-treatment so mediocrity is not much of an impairment to their future success.

Trayvon had a mother AND a father who were active in his life. You can see it in the myriad photos of him with his family. He was solidly middle class, with all of the advantages that this confers. Those factors are what drives the bigots nuts. None of them are going to come out and say that they resent the life that this little black boy was being given, but it's still abundantly evident from my perspective.

I keep seeing these folks who simply don't think that Trayvon Martin's death is worthy of this much attention. I think it's relevant to mention that these folks are almost all white. They've complained bitterly about how the media shows him as a neatly dressed, baby-faced teen with an adorable smile. They seem to think it's unfair and a betrayal to whiteness for the media not to find some "gangsta" photos of Trayvon to help justify shooting an unarmed kid. It makes it harder for them to dismiss this injustice when there's so little in this kid's history for them to use as excuses to slaughter him in cold blood. He was once suspended from school for a few days. That's it. That's the worst thing they've been able to find in this kid's past. That's infuriating to them, because they know that there own kids and even they themselves probably wouldn't look so squeaky clean if their life was suddenly placed underneath the magnifying glass.

Okay, I want to write more about this, but I'm exhausted. I'll try and get back to it on tomorrow.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

ADHD is the Next Phase of Humanity

Of course it is! Those who have children with ADHD already knew this. Her ADHD is what makes my daughter able to teach herself German and Chinese and Japanese while taking 2 years of Latin in school. She's a talented artist whose art had already been displayed all over our state before she even left elementary school. Her brain thrives in situations where I become overwhelmed and feel overtaxed.

We tried medication, because it was suggested by her doctor that it might help her concentrate more at school. It was a total disaster. She was almost zombified by it. She couldn't even stay awake long enough to go to school and come home and eat dinner afterward. We thought it might improve after a few weeks, but it didn't. When my daughter came to me and told me that it made it impossible for her to make art and that it felt like something was blocking her thoughts, we took her off of it, IMMEDIATELY.

She's in high school now and she's learned how to compensate for her weaknesses. She's thriving and she's not drugged, which is more than I can say for a huge chunk of the adult population in this country.

She, and the others like her, are definitely the new model of humans. I have a moderately high IQ and her father is in the genius IQ rating. Though I can see where her father and I have a few of the traits she exhibits, it's very clear that she has a lot of abilities that we don't.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why I Decided to Learn These Languages

I found this post after googling a Yiddish saying.

I'm from New Orleans. I grew up with Creole/Cajun French mixed in with our English, much in the same way that many people in Jewish-American communities grow up hearing Yiddish words and phrases.

I have two Latina cousins and my mother taught herself Spanish and we attended a Spanish-Speaking congregation for about a year. Most of the Spanish that I know comes from these experiences. I'm not fluent enough to speak it, but I can understand it when it's spoken or written. Spanish never interested me enough to really pursue learning it.

With that background, I took a year of French in high school, to increase my vocabulary. Because of my culture(s), it wasn't very difficult to absorb. I truly believe that French is the language of love. No language sounds sexier, to me. They have the best terms of endearment and interesting twists of phrases that have to do with intimacy. Even my German-American husband loves it.

Many Semitic Arabs speak French, so when I started college, I was able to interact quite well with the international students from areas like Algeria and Morocco. They would invite me to off-campus cultural events, because I could at least understand the French that they mixed with their Arabic.

That motivated me to take a couple of years of Arabic at our university. It was mostly Cairene, but one semester we did have a very strict professor from Algeria who endeavored to remove all of what he viewed as slang words from our vocabulary. He also taught us a bit of Classical Arabic, which is useful, if you want to read the great works of literature from that area. It was really helpful and I think I benefited from it.

If someone was going to learn Arabic, I would still suggest that they learn Cairene. It is the most commonly understood dialect. Egypt produces much of the television programming and theater movies that are watched by Arabic-speakers throughout the Middle East and the Maghrib (i.e. North Africa). You might not understand all of what a person from, say, Oman is trying to express, but he will likely be able to understand you.

Since I could understand Arabic, hearing people speak Hebrew always sounded vaguely familiar. It was JUST close enough to Arabic for me to understand a word or two when I heard someone speaking Hebrew. Naturally, I decided that I should learn to read Hebrew so that I didn't have to rely on someone speaking it, in order for me to understand things like traffic signs, names of buildings, et cetera.

I just finished a Hebrew course offered as a leisure class at one of our local universities. Knowing Arabic made learning Hebrew grammar feel quite natural. I'm hoping that there will be enough people interested for them to offer a Level 2 class over the summer.

Once I finish tackling Hebrew, I have no idea what that will make me interested in. Maybe Yiddish? Or Amharic? Yiddish would let me use the alphabets that I'm most familiar with, but it has a lot less Hebrew. My brain has seems to have permanent block, when it comes to learning German, so I wonder if that would make Yiddish pretty difficult for me. Amharic would require learning a new alphabet, but it would include more of the vocabulary that I've already studied.

I think learning languages enriches a person's life experiences. It's also a good way to get a better deal, when you're doing business with someone whose primary language isn't English. You're less likely to be cheated, if a person sees you as a part of their community. I've found that to be true in every language, including English.

If you're reading this, I hope that you'll pursue the languages of your ancestors. One of the worst aspects of American slavery was the fact that the enslaved people were not allowed to teach their native tongue to their children. Because of that horrible and indelible stain on our nation, most African-Americans don't have any knowledge of the languages spoken by their African ancestors. This has caused us to be disconnected from our ancestral culture--no matter how many speakers you have around you, a person will always be excluded from significant aspects of their culture, if they can't speak it it themselves. I think that those who are fortunate enough to know their history owe it to their ancestors to pass on as much of the culture as they can to their descendants.