Thursday, August 31, 2006

Don - The Fundamentalist

“One thing all these fundamentalisms have in common is that they are, ultimately, reactionary. They exploit identity not as a starting point to connect with the rest of humanity but an end point, from which the rest of humanity is excluded. Devoted to eternal and exclusive truths, they brook no dissent and tolerate no debate. What matters most to fundamentalists is not what you do but who you are. Regardless of how many good deeds you perform, a Christian fundamentalist will only recognize you as a fellow human being up to a certain point unless you too are a Christian fundamentalist – beyond that you are just one more sinner.

For fundamentalists insist that we privilege just one identity above all others all the time. Since this is not how most of us live our lives, we tend to ignore them. The price for breaching their codes, they warn us, is banishment; the prize for conforming to them is belonging. But since, under normal circumstances, they are not a part of a community to which most of us would want to belong and they have no power to deliver on their threats, they have nothing we want or fear.” – Gary Younge, “How to fight reactionaries” – The Guardian Weekly – August 25-31, 2006

Younge makes some excellent points here. Christian fundamentalists have a hard time realizing that the moral umbrella they are living under isn’t inclusive, and in fact it is not representative of anything taught to Christians in the New Testament. I am no fundamentalist, but I admit to having looked at someone before and labeling them as “just one more sinner”. This passage from Younge’s recent article is broad, but I am going with this in a political direction. If someone disagrees with fundamentalists they instantly condemn that person and scream at the top of their lungs, “Traitor!”

This sounds a lot like Donald Rumsfeld when someone suggests a troop withdrawal timeline for the war in Iraq. He often comes up with answers that skirt around the issue by relating the ongoing quagmire to an unprecedented event in the middle of the last century that is in no way related to the current quagmire, but Rumsfeld has said before, “I don’t do quagmires.” For Rumsfeld, a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq “would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis.” This poor illustration not only fails to bring to light the sense of urgency for a resolution in Iraq, but by saying this Rumsfeld has shattered a number of previous statements. Before those are brought in, let us try to categorize the last Rumsfeld quote for what it is: a prediction, a statement concerning foreign policy, diplomacy, and certainly the issue he is addressing is a predicament, therefore a quagmire.

How are we supposed to take this man seriously after we have heard all the following come out of his mouth? “I don’t do predictions.” “I don’t do foreign policy.” “I don’t do diplomacy.” And, “I don’t do quagmires.”

Asked in February of 2003, how long the conflict in Iraq would last, Rumsfeld made another prediction, “It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.”

It is clear that Rumsfeld hasn’t known the answers to many of the questions that have come his way in the last four years. He has been quoted as saying, “If I know the answer I’ll tell you the answer, and if I don’t, I’ll just respond, cleverly.” Answering cleverly would show skill and resourcefulness. The answer would also be marked by wit and ingenuity. Try again, Donald.

Here is another passage I highlighted from today's Guardian.

“A "bingo wing" is an unattractive wobbling underarm, seen on bingo players as they wave their arms around excitedly.” - Emine Saner, Thursday August 31, 2006.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Unemployed No Longer

I fooled you. I still don't have a job. However...

There has been new light shed upon the job search this week. Whether it is good or not, I do not know. Nonetheless, I have succumbed to the big, green coffee giant and have applied at one of their many Longmont locations. I have an interview with them on Friday. Although this is the first interview I have had all summer long it is hard to get terribly excited about it, but after months of looking around and a lot of advice I have discovered that experience is all that a company is looking for. Unfortunately they don’t need someone to analyze 18th century English literature, or the early American novel. The only place I can get hired to do that is at a university and I need two more degrees to make that a realistic option.

I walked into an employment agency today. Based on the appearance of the place, I almost turned around and walked right out but I was pleasantly surprised by the service I received. The place looked like a gutted saloon. Its hard wood floor covered with a thin layer of light brown carpet. The furniture was sparse and all of it an ugly wood finish like the baseboard and trim work of houses built in the 80s. The walls are covered in cheesy employment posters and a free calendar with loads of ads surrounding the field of dates with scribbled in appointments.

After some preliminary paperwork I was led to a back room filled with shabby cubicle walls. The agency wanted to see what I could do. Well, they must have a lot of brilliant people in there because first I had to alphabetize, sort numbers into the right range, spell some words, and perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. This all was depressing at times, but I took it casually for the most part and considered all these tests as little personal challenges. There was no difficulty in completing any of them, but there was fun to be had when I tried to see how quickly I could finish.

The real fun began when I had to take a typing, data entry, and Word proficiency test on a ten year old computer. This beast was still running Windows 97. You had to punch those keys for the computer to input the correct letter. I was able to plunk out 57 words per minute and almost 8000 keystrokes in an hour for data entry. I forgot to look at the proficiency printout and that was my one disappointment after leaving today.

Lastly, I watched a safety video in case I am hired for manual labor, although I told them I wasn’t interested in that work. The video addressed personal protection equipment, or PPE, electricity safety, cleaning of the worksite, and emergency procedures. There were a whole variety of people in the video. I was captivated by their feeble attempts at acting. Where do they get these people? Were they aspiring actors from the East coast who were making their way to Hollywood, but only had enough money to get as far as Oklahoma? Now they make a living off of safety videos and television infomercials by moving dumbly and expressionlessly throughout “hazardous” situations and “real” worksites.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Life's Best

Nine days since my last blog is long, too long. What I have been writing hasn't been complete enough, or public enough to put up on the blog. Here is an excerpt from my retelling of a great night last weekend. It was a Sunday, the rains came to Longmont, but it didn't put us indoors for one minute--another reason my friends are so great. That night ranks near the top in all the summer nights.

It was during this time (Sunday night) that it dawned on me again, what we have is so unique. We are not just friends, we are family. That sounds so terribly cliché, but it is true. When one of us has a problem WE fix it. We don’t leave people behind. The love is always there, and it will always be unconditional. We do what we want. We have our loving families. Sometimes things aren’t always perfect at home, but that has driven us more to make things right with our other family. Love, listening, thought, talking, and silence are the toppings on an already immense bond that we share, our love for and relationship with Jesus.

Whatever happens, wherever we go, however far we are from one another, we will always have one another. We will always have these summers. We will always have this time. The time that we had for each other, fellowship, love, memories, and life. As this summer comes to an end I know that it will be my last as I have known them. I will welcome change, and it is coming, but I have lived these most awesome months at home again and again wanting this fellowship to flourish, to expand to the far reaches of this country and this world. We know what has truly made our time together amazing, and we always need to share that love, and the love we have had for each other, with the next strangers we come into contact with.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

London on my Mind

I miss reading the posters and advertisements in Tube stations, riding the tube during rush hour and touching twenty strangers at the same time, riding the W7 through North London suburbs, and the public transportation system. I loved people watching, not being in the United States, living in an inexhaustible city, casually strolling into an art gallery and seeing masterpieces for free, sunsets on the Thames, and the British accent. I want to stare at the ceiling in St. Paul’s Cathedral while listening to the organ on a Sunday evening. How about a stroll along Fleet Street sticking out in my college grunge getup? I loved feeling out of place on the Tube if I wasn’t reading something. There is something enchanting about that city. I felt smarter when I was there, or at least like I was getting smarter at a much quicker rate than I am now in the States.

Glimpses of streets, buses, and Tube stations ignite memories of the summer past. An unforgotten headline scrolls through my head: Terrorist attacks on the London transportation system kill 52. I step onto the train anyway. The terror is not forgotten, but it does not control. You like this about the Brits—just like the New Yorkers, they have moved on. You had to move on, that is why you still came to London after last summer’s attacks. Two weeks pass and you know moving on and flying across the pond was the best thing you have ever done with your life.

I miss going to Piccadilly Circus and not feeling like a tourist, observing the mannerisms of internationals gawking at this vast city, being full of pride after giving someone directions, knowing my way around, using a shortcut, and watching lost people; remembering I was overwhelmed by directions when I arrived here.

I want to get a hot chocolate and stroll through the city on a cold evening. I want to walk in one direction for miles knowing I will eventually find another Tube station; a portal right back to the familiar. I want to be caught gawking at shoppers on Oxford Street. A walk from the Tower to the Tate Modern would be nice. Cross Millennium Bridge to St. Paul's, take the Central Line to Holborn, switch to the Piccadilly Line, take the W7 from Finsbury Park, sit upstairs, halfway back in a window seat on the left, and count the pubs on the way to the bottom of Muswell Hill.

Occasionally a stroll through Leicester Square at night finds another movie premiere and a lot of celebrity idolizing. I take part for a while, if I enjoy that person’s work. If I don’t, I might hang around anyway, if I know it will be a good story. Hang around too late and I might find myself running through the West End to watch the Royal Shakespeare Company perform As You Like It at the Novello—from the dress circle.

I want to take the Eye to the top, but not pay for it, and take even more pictures of Parliament, St. Paul’s, Canary Wharf, and the Post Office Tower. Reading Saturday, by Ian McEwan, was even more enjoyable because I walked on the streets mentioned between the book’s covers. Depart for Russell Square on the Piccadilly Line, take the 150 steps to the top instead of waiting for the lift, walk out those tight legs and breath in the cold air as you follow the right side of the square for a block, take a right, take a quick left through a courtyard in front of the college for Oriental and African American studies, take a right at Malet Street, go into the University of London Union, and buy a Guardian for twenty-five pence at the discounted student rate.

Walk through the Portobello Market in Notting Hill and wonder what the fuss was about. Barter with someone for a jacket in Camden Town, but don’t end up buying it. Try to get it for a tenner before you walk away. Quickly walk away after the seller gets pissed off at you for asking. Act like the Tube is broken and walk for an hour in no specific direction. Order a warm pint of Broadside beer at a pub. For your birthday your co-workers will buy the pints after work in Clapham.

Ride the Tube to Zone 6 because you haven’t been there. Take in every last sight of London for life as you ride the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow—above ground this time. When you step off British soil promise yourself a return trip; maybe even a return stay.