Monday, February 23, 2015

Disability as Motive

“You know the secret of my sister’s ill health, what those Muggles did, what she became. You know how my poor father sought revenge, and paid the price, died in Azkaban. You know how my mother gave up her own life to care for Ariana.
“I resented it, Harry.”
Dumbledore stated it baldly, coldly. He was looking now over the top of Harry’s head, into the distance.
“I was gifted. I was brilliant. I wanted to escape. I wanted to shine. I wanted glory.
“Do not misunderstand me,” he said, and pain crossed the face so that he looked ancient again. “I loved them. I loved my parents, I loved my brother and sister, but I was selfish, Harry, more selfish than you, who are a remarkably selfless person, could possibly imagine.
“So that, when my mother died, and I was left the responsibility of a damaged sister and a wayward brother, I returned to my village in anger and bitterness. Trapped and wasted, I thought! And then, of course, he came....”
Dumbledore looked directly into Harry’s eyes again.

“Grindelwald. You cannot imagine how his ideas caught me, Harry, inflamed me. Muggles forced into subservience. We wizards triumphant. Grindelwald and I, the glorious young leaders of the revolution.” (715-16)

On the way home from school, walking up the road with her arms full of books, one of the boys had said something about her “dumb baby brother.” At this she’d thrown the books on the side of the road and tackled him with every ounce of strength she had, and arrived home with her blouse torn and a big bruise under one eye. (12)

The bombing drove people insane. They rolled on the ground, pushed themselves against it, as if the earth could open a door for them. The ones who could not stop shaking after the danger passed would sleep in the cave. My mother explained airplanes to them as she wiggled their ears. (94)

The child married to a husband who did not speak Chinese translated for him, “Now she’s saying that I’m taking a machine off the shelf and that I’m attaching two metal spiders to it. And she’s saying the spiders are spinning with legs intertwined and beating the eggs electrically. Now she says I’m hunting for something in the refrigerator and – ha! – I’ve found it. I’m taking out butter – ‘cow oil.’ ‘They eat a lot of cow oil,’ she is saying.” (141)

Many of the storekeepers invited sitting in their stores, but we did not have sitting because the laundry was hot and because it was outside Chinatown. He sweated; he panted, the stubble rising and falling on his fat neck and chin. He sat on two large cartons that he brought with him and stacked one on top of the other. He said hello to my mother and father, and then, balancing his heavy head, he lowered himself carefully onto his cartons and sat. My parents allowed this. They did not chase him out or comment about how strange he was. I stopped placing orders for toys. I didn’t limp anymore; my parents would only figure that this zombie and I were a match.
I studied hard, got straight A’s, but nobody seemed to see that I was smart and had nothing in common with this monster, this birth defect. (195)

because of his disfigurement and because his mind was not quick, Michael was taken out school after a short trial and committed to the protection of Huis Norenius in Faure, where at the expense of the state he spent the rest of his childhood in the company of variously other afflicted and unfortunate children learning the elements of reading, writing, counting, sweeping, scrubbing, bedmaking, dishwashing, basketweaving, woodwork and digging. (4)

At least, he thought, at least I have not been clever, and come back to Sea Point full of stories of how they beat me in the camps till I was thin as a rake and simple in the head. I was mute and stupid in the beginning, I will be mute and stupid at the end. There is nothing to be ashamed of in being simple. They were locking up simpletons before they locked up anyone else. Now they have camps for children whose parents run away, camps for people who kick and foam at the mouth, camps for people with big heads and people with little heads, camps for people with no visible means of support, camps for people chased off the land, camps for people they find living in storm-water drains, camps for street girls, camps for people who can’t add two and two, camps for people who forget their papers at home, camps for people who live in the mountains and blow up bridges in the night. Perhaps the truth is that it is enough to be out of the camps, out of all the camps at the same time. Perhaps that is enough of an achievement, for the time being. (182)

We have all tumbled over the lip into the cauldron of history: only you, following your idiot light, biding your time in an orphanage (who would have thought of that as a hiding-place?), evading the peace and the war, skulking in the open where no one dreamed of looking, have managed to live in the old way, drifting through time, observing the seasons, no more trying to change the course of history than a grain of sand does. We ought to value you and celebrate you, we ought to put your clothes on a maquette in a museum, your clothes and your packet of pumpkin seeds too, with a label; there ought to be a plaque nailed to the racetrack wall commemorating your stay here. But that is not the way it is going to be. The truth is that you are going to perish in obscurity and be buried in a nameless hole in a corner of the racecourse, transport to the acres of Woltemade being out of the question nowadays, and no one is going to remember you but me, unless you yield and at last open your mouth. I appeal to you, Michaels: yield! (151-52)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Value-- and the Values-- of the Humanities

Thurgood Marshall:

This is unfortunate, not the patriotism itself, but the tendency for the celebration to oversimplify and overlook the many other events that have been instrumental to our achievements as a nation. The focus of this celebration invites a complacent belief that the vision of those who debated and compromised in Philadelphia yielded the “more perfect Union” it is said we now enjoy.

I cannot accept this invitation, for I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever “fixed” at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. When contemporary Americans cite “The Constitution,” they invoke a concept that is vastly different from what the Framers barely began to construct two centuries ago.

We must be careful, when focusing on the events which took place in Philadelphia two centuries ago, that we not overlook the momentous events which followed, and thereby lose our proper sense of perspective. Otherwise, the odds are that for many Americans the bicentennial celebration will be little more than a blind pilgrimage to the shrine of the original document now stored in a vault in the National Archives. If we seek, instead, a sensitive understanding of the Constitution's inherent defects, and its promising evolution through 200 years of history, the celebration of the “Miracle at Philadelphia” will, in my view, be a far more meaningful and humbling experience.

Judith Butler:

What one means by “the universal” will vary, and the cultural articulation of the term in its various modalities will work against precisely the trans-cultural status of the claim.  This is not to say that there ought to be no reference to the universal or that it has become, for us, an impossibility. On the contrary. All this means is that there are cultural conditions for articulation which are not always the same, and the term gains its meaning for us precisely through the decidedly less-than-universal cultural conditions of its articulation. This is a paradox that any injunction to adopt a universal attitude will encounter.

It may be that in one culture a set of rights are considered to be universally endowed, and that in another those very rights mark the limit to universalizability, i.e., “if we grant those people those rights we will be undercutting the foundations of the universal as we know it.” This has become especially clear to me in the field of lesbian and gay human rights where “the universal” is a contested term, and where various cultures and various mainstream human rights groups voice doubt over whether lesbian and gay humans ought properly to be included in “the human” and whether their putative rights fit within the existing conventions governing the scope of rights considered universal. 

It may be that the universal is only partially articulated, and that we do not yet know what form it will take. In this sense, the contingent and cultural character of the existing conventions governing the scope of universality does not deny the usefulness or importance of the term “universal.” It simply means that the claim of universality has not yet received a full or final articulation and that it remains to be seen how and whether it will be articulated further.

William Deresiewicz:

In literary studies in particular, the last several decades have witnessed the baleful reign of “Theory,” a mash-up of Derridean deconstruction, Foucauldian social theory, Lacanian psychoanalysis and other assorted abstrusiosities, the overall tendency of which has been to cut the field off from society at large and from the main currents of academic thought, not to mention the common reader and common sense. 


     FB:  I thought gay people were good and deserved marriage licenses!
     JD: That's probably because of your treacherous liberal education. It's brainwashed you into thinking that there is no right and wrong, that everyone deserves equal rights, and that the fossil record accurately represents the geological and biological history of the earth. If our society continues to slide down this slippery slope of moral relativism, it will mean the end of Western Civilization.
     FB: Oh no! Not Western Civilization! That's where all my friends live!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Not Again!

Jeez, you'll fall for this old "read the whole thing" trick every time, won't you? No, there is no transcript of Troy Aikman and Joe Buck debating this call on Wittgensteinian grounds. Really, there isn't. I made it all up.

Why? Because I'm in St. Louis and recovering from a nasty cold and I had nothing better to do.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Blogging in the Future!

See, I told you it was possible!

My, everything is so clear now that it's April 27, 2022. I'm glad all that nonsense from back in 2007 got straightened out!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Harriet Miers in Retrospect

Greetings, my friends, we are all interested in the future, because that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember, future events such as these will affect you in the future!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

In other future news

Welcome, all you readers looking for future news not related to Harriet Miers!

The South American populist revolution of the late 20th and early 21st century finally took root in the United States in 2020, abolishing the Electoral College, establishing proportional-representation voting for all nonexecutive electoral contests, and bringing agrarian reform to California.

You can learn more about agrarian reform in the United States by Future-Googling Secretary of the Interior Christopher Clarke.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Inexpensive champagne shipped directly to your home!

Thanks to the heroic efforts of President John Edwards and Vice-President Tucker Carlson, who, not content with the nationalizing of the United States' energy industry and the de-nationalizing of Fox News, signed legislation in early 2026 enabling every American to order Freixenet and Korbel online.

Edwards' and Carlson's landslide 77-23 defeat of Jenna and Barbara Bush in 2028 was widely credited to their catchy campaign slogan, "Re-Elect Edwards/ Carlson -- It's Smooth Sailing Now."