Credit where credit is due:
Donald Trump is such
a talented cultural terrorist.
Consider this morning’s tweetage:After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow...... ....Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming..... ....victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.
There goes Caitlyn Jenner’s Big Dream of becoming a Marine sergeant!
This is a Big Deal because it’s a basic civil rights issue.
Let's say that Pacific Islanders constituted 1% of the U.S. population (I have no idea whether they do or don't; this is just for the sake of argument), and let's say Trump banned all Samoans from joining the armed forces. Today's tweetage would be something comparable in terms of the basic issues involved.
But it’s such
a hot button.
I’m convinced the dialogue around transgender bathrooms is what won the election for Trump.
Personally? I think people have a perfect right to do whatever they want to their own bodies and to justify that any way they please. Do I think some people are born into the wrong bodies? No. But that’s because I think constraints like “femininity” and “masculinity” are cultural constructs devised by a patriarchal society that have little or nothing to do with the actual physical experience of being either female or male. If someone wants to claim a gender that has nothing to do with their genes or their genitals, that’s A-Okay with me, though.
Frankly, I don’t care who shares my bathroom. And I don’t understand why the U.S. doesn’t go for the European solution and install unisex public in all new private and public buildings.
against expensive public works projects designed to retrofit existing toilets, but that’s only because I think the money would be better spent elsewhere. Like on schools
. Or public transportation systems
Economic resources are
limited at the local level.
But transgender bathrooms are a red flag for anyone who’s even just a little bit right of center. So I don’t honestly know
how you go about having conversations about transgender bathrooms or
about the right of trans individuals to join the military without derailing conversations that have larger implications for the common good.
Trump is able to create a reflexive fear and terror in a significant portion of the American population by violating their norms and expectations about the social code. He does this for political gain and profit, to gain credibility with his base.
Hitler was good at that, too.
In other news, I met up with BB’s pal Magdala in Kingston yesterday. We walked around Kingston, which is an interesting little city and oh-so
-historic: The 17th century graveyard of the Old Dutch Reform Church is filled with the names of local towns and bridges.
Magdala is an interesting woman. She lived in a tiny Moroccan village in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains for three or four years. She married a Moroccan musician, 15 years younger than she is. She fell in love with him because of his voice
Of course, I was dying to ask, And do you seriously believe that he fell in love with you? Or did he just see you as a meal ticket?
But, I didn’t.
Because, you know, propriety
Fortunately, the subject came up on its own without
my having to bring it up!
The marriage ended, she told me, because she’d had to come back to the States for a couple of months to take care of her dying mother, and when she returned to the tiny village in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, her husband had become an alcoholic. And violent. Threatening to kill her.
“It seemed like such a change
,” she said to me. “But then sometimes I would think: Maybe it’s not a change. Maybe he always felt like that. Maybe he was just using me.
“Well,” I said as diplomatically as I could. “The cultures are certainly very
different. And I don’t know how many questions would be asked about an American woman who disappeared in Morocco.”
I remembered thinking that exact thing about Imaan: For about a year there, I really was the closest thing she had to a mother. And yet, there really wasn’t any closeness. I was dispensable. I was not part of her tribe, so in some essential sense, I didn’t matter.
(It’s funny. I never felt that way about Summer – who comes from a culture that’s even more
unlike mine. I’m tempted to pontificate about the essential differences between Middle Eastern and Chinese cultures here. But I’ll spare you.)
We started talking about North Africa in general.
“I’ve been to Morocco, Egypt, and Tunisia,” I said. “Libya sounded
interesting, but it always scared me.”
“Libya used to be a great place under Gaddafi,” Magdala said. “I sure wouldn’t go near it now.”
?” I asked.
“Sure! Oh, come on. You can’t believe anything
the American propaganda machine churns out. The Libyans adored Gaddafi. Everyone
in North Africa adored Gaddafi. He wanted to create a United States of Africa. That’s probably why the U.S. put a target on his back.”
“Make Africa great again!” I said. “A populist!”
“Absolutely, a populist,” Magdala said.
a consummate narcissist!”
“I suppose,” Magdala allowed.
“Like Donald Trump!” I said.
Magdala was taken aback. “Well, I
wouldn’t compare Gaddafi to Donald Trump,” she sniffed.
“Loved by his base? Hated by everyone else? Sounds like Donald and Muammar were separated at birth!”
“I suppose there are
similarities,” she said grudgingly.
In other North African news, Samir – my Algerian student - is really, really
He’s a programmer, right?
A programmer who deals with abstractions that are far more complex than computer programs, which are still based on syntax. He’s an electronics
programmer, which is pure machine logic, ones and zeroes that follow no syntax save applied mathematics. It’s a kind of crystalline approach to thought, which is light years beyond anything my brain could approach.
But, of course, he knows
I had this thought that since he is a programmer, and I’m trying to teach him to read English very, very quickly
, that it might be useful for him to define English as a set of objects and instance variables.
“So,” I said. “You are going to be looking at these sentences for three things: Subject, verb, and object. The subject does
the action; the verb is
the action; the object is the thing the action is done to, okay?
“Everything else is a modifier. Think of all those modifiers as variables and methods inside invisible parentheses, okay?”
I read a sentence: A tradition as old as the civilization itself, Greek pottery can be studied as a chronicle of ancient Greek society.
. Verb: study
. ‘Study’ is what they call an intransitive
verb, so it doesn’t do
something to the so much as affect the object. Object: chronicle
I peered at Samir intensely. “Get it?”
He nodded thoughtfully. “But what is ‘chronicles’?”
“Stories. History. Old
He nodded again.
I read another sentence: It was designed to fulfill a functional rather than decorative purpose, so Greek pottery was fundamentally related to everyday life, not separated from it.
“Subject?” I asked.
,” I said. “’Greek’ describes
I could see the lights flickering in his brain.
“Related,” Samir said.
“Very good,” I said. “Object?”
“Life,” he said.
“Excellent! Furthermore, the Greeks’ pottery is an essential source of historical information because so much of it survives today.
“What is ‘furthermore’?”
“Also. In addition to. TOEFL uses reading comprehension examples from academic writing, so the writers are going to use a lot of words that people never
use, but you will have to know them. Although vessels may be broken, even these remnants of pottery contribute to contemporary historians’ understanding of ancient Greek culture.
“But what is ‘remnants’?”
“Things that are left over. Things that remain
“Ah!” he said.
And then he began to tell me about the lost city of Timgad, a Roman city almost perfectly preserved because it lies in the Sahara desert just south of the foot of the Aures Mountains where Batna, the city he grew up in, lies.
Timgad was his playground when he was growing up. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but since it’s in Algeria, nobody goes there. And since there’s no money for public works administration in Algeria, there are no officials to keep curious teenage boys from exploring.
After that, Samir began to tell me about the lost city of Tkout, which is even more obscure than the lost city of Timgad: It exists on no map whatsoever. It’s the ruin of an Amazighe city that flourished well before the birth of Christ, about 100 kilometers outside of Batna. The hovels of the modern prefecture of Tkout – many of them constructed from the stones of the forbidden city – were the birthplace of the Algerian War for Independence.
Two more places I long
to go to.
Two more places I will never go to.
Nothing happens for a reason.Everything
happens for a reason.