Friday, September 2, 2011

U. S. Department of Ethics


I, Louise Doire propose the creation of The United States Department of Ethics, which may otherwise be known as “Doire’s Folly.” Arguably, the LAST thing this government needs is yet another office, another department, another bureaucratic quagmire staffed by stuffed shirts, stiff suits and partisan pettiness. But hear me out. I’m thinking in terms of a sort of Ethics Supreme Court, which would be formed in much the same way as the U.S. Supreme Court. An ethicist would be nominated by the President and would have to pass muster in the House and Senate. Qualified nominees would be those persons well-versed in philosophy with a specialization in ethics or logic, though I grant you that a philosopher of ethics is not necessarily ethical. This is worth noting because you see; I don’t really want them to make ethical decisions per se.
What I have in mind is a responsibility for judging whether or not an ethical argument (or any other kind of argument) put forward by a government office, official, candidate, or President is valid or invalid. So, whenever a department or official issues a statement on some controversial issue the Ethics Department will look it over and point out what justifications are valid or simply rhetorical BS. Also, a member of the Ethics Department would be present at all Congressional, Senatorial and Presidential debates armed with little game show buzzers. Whenever a candidate utters an argument that falls within the category of fallacy, the Ethics Department member will press the buzzer and explain why the statement under question is unacceptable. Because I swear, the stuff that’s passing as acceptable moral reasoning these days is laughable.
Take for example the nonsense that’s coming from State Department ‘spokespersons’ with regard to their stamp of approval of the Tar Sands Keystone XL Pipeline project (and if you don’t know what this is then you have not been paying attention to my facebook posts). Kerri-Ann Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs recently offered, "The sense we have is that the oil sands would be developed and there is not going to be any change in greenhouse gas emissions with the pipeline or without the pipeline because these oil sands will be developed anyway.” This rationalization is eerily similar to the defense Adolf Eichmann offered at his trial in 1960. Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust claimed that he was merely one of a cog in the wheel, that essentially if he hadn’t done it, someone else would have. About the notorious Nazi physicians, Darrell Fasching, Religious Studies scholar and author of Comparative Religious Ethics wrote, “The will of the bureaucracy was so massive and omnipresent that the Nazi physicians typically said they felt that their refusal to perform their duties would not change anything…If they didn’t do the selecting someone else would” (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). A more juvenile example would be if a child pled that everyone else was going to do it anyway, so s/he did too. My mother didn’t buy that when I was thirteen and I don’t buy it from an Assistant Secretary of State. This is called the Bandwagon Fallacy.
Congressman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) offered, "It seems to me that it's far better to rely on a friendly neighbor in Canada than some unstable sources around the world.” This argument rests on the proposition that the virtue of the collaborator in the immoral act is more relevant than the act itself. It’s like making the point that since I have to buy a gun to shoot my neighbor anyway, it’s better to buy it from my cousin than from a stranger. This is called the Red Herring Fallacy, one which distracts the audience from the issue in question through the introduction of some irrelevancy.
Then there is the conclusion drawn by the State Department and issued in their report that the “plan to move tar sands oil across the U.S. by pipeline will not cause significant environmental problems.” Well, this one really doesn’t require a philosopher so much as a climate scientist or the directors of the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the National Wildlife Federation, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity or NASA climatologist Dr. James Hansen or a teacher of 8th grade environmental science or say, a professor of religious studies at a small liberal arts college. Really, all that’s needed here is for someone to point out to the State Department their delusion that the Emperor is not wearing new clothes; the Emperor is wearing no clothes. Read Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes OR the State Department’s official report on the Keystone XL Pipeline project. Same story, different emperors.

http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/Emperors-New-Clothes.htm
http://www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/clientsite/keystonexl.nsf?Open

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Et tu, Barack?



Anyone who has ever taken high school Brit Lit knows the symbolic utterance of my title question. It is, next to the “Judas Kiss,” the quintessential expression of betrayal. In Shakespeare’s play (and according to some, ‘true’ to history) when Julius Caesar mouthed the words, "Et tu, Brute?", as his friend Brutus stuck the knife in, it was followed by the line, “Then fall, Caesar.”

“Then fall, Caesar.”

And so it is with that remembrance of the knife that I ask, “Et tu, Barack?”

For we have been betrayed. You have been betrayed. You, who argued for his Presidency on the basis of his opposition to the war with Iraq. You, who told me to vote for him because his was a different vision for the future. You, who defended his Nobel Peace Prize by arguing from potential. You, who found in him a hope for a NEW way. YOU, who saw in him a different kind of humanity; a different kind of leadership; a different kind of HOPE; a new idea of peace. We have been betrayed.

His golden tongue is still mesmerizing.
He appeals to 9/11. He exploits the old wound. He appeals to the future of our children and grandchildren. He tugs at the heartstrings. He appeals to right and virtue and nobility and freedom. The rhetoric is astounding.

And then there are the 30,000. The 30,000.

And I am heart sick.

And all are silent. The only outrage I have heard has been from a dear friend of mine; a seasoned war protestor; a staunch Obama supporter who is prepared to protest and to march against her beloved Barack, because as she expressed it to me, “Right is right.”

In the past few days I have engaged in conversations with a few people about the escalation of the war (let me repeat that—the ESCALATION OF THE WAR) in Afghanistan and have been confronted with comments about how Hillary "would be doing the same thing." I am speechless and insulted. Why do they invoke her name? It seems somehow they think my criticism stems from my initial animosity towards Obama during the Democratic Presidential primaries. Huh?

They think I take pleasure in this? They could not be more wrong. It has always been my heart's desire that Obama BE who you thought he was and DO what he said he'd do. What kind of American would I be if I had not wanted that?

As an aside, I think it an absolutely stunning turn of events that those who tell me now that 'Hillary would be doing exactly the same thing,' are the same people who just a few short months ago were arguing against Hillary's candidacy in favor of Obama's on the basis of their radically (O, so radically) different positions on war. And now, they seem to defend him from some appeal to their standing on the same hawkish ground. Don't you just LOVE irony?

I listened to his speech and I am not moved.
His rhetoric was predictable and lackluster.
I could have been listening to LBJ or John McCain or George Bush.

I expected more. I expected audacity. I expected peace. And so did you.

And the hope is dashed.

Et tu, Barack? Then fall, the 30,000.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks: 2009




Forgive my predictability here, but these are a few of the things for which I am grateful:

* for being old enough to be irreverent and young enough to wear cowboy boots, and get away with both.

* for my old Passat that keeps hangin’ in there.

* for kids I would be honored to know even if I wasn’t their mother.

* for friends who make me laugh until I cry.

* for big brothers who call me “Kid,” and “Sweethaht.”

* for classroom moments that take my breath away.

* for little boxes of paint that wait patiently in the closet.

* for my mom who teaches me how to grow old gracefully.

* for Sadie who tugs at my heart from 900 miles away.

* for coffee and chocolate.

* for my Bose Wave Radio/CD Player that I turn on even before I set down my keys.

* for books and exquisite sentences that must be read over and over again.

* for the Atlantic Ocean, four minutes away.

* for every day that brings one damn gift after another.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fractured Fairy Tales



Inspired by a feminist coloring book we saw online, a friend and I were playing with captions we'd like to see ourselves. So, as you read these, imagine black and white outlines (of the appropriate character), just waiting for that little girl to color (hopefully OUTSIDE the lines).

And for those of you who would point your finger and accuse me of "male-bashing," I must object. For in reality, what this is, is "Prince-MYTH bashing." It's a feminist deconstruction thing...

"Snow White left 7 little men who catered to her every whim, for a man who expected her to do the same for him. It didn't take her long to realize just how Dopey she had been."

"When Rapunzel first met the Prince, he pulled on her hair. After she married him, she pulled out her own."

"Sleeping Beauty didn't realize just how precious a nap was, until she married the Prince and had his kids."

"The Little Mermaid traded eternal life for a man. After she married him, she realized what eternity really felt like."

"Cinderella didn't know that she simply traded one dirty chimney for another."

"The Wicked Witch wasn't really wicked. She was just trying to keep Sleeping Beauty from making the same mistakes she had."

"Beauty was told that if she loved the Beast enough he would change. No one told her that what he would change into was a MAN."

"If your father introduces you to someone named 'The Beast,' run Sweetheart. Run like the freaking wind."

Feel free to offer your OWN 'Fractured Fairy Tales...'

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Home is Where They Have to Take You In


Rhode Island. They have to take me in there. These are the people who have known me all my life; my mother and brothers. This trip, my first best friend ever will also be there. Her mother still lives across the street from my dad's bar. I've agreed to meet them there, for a drink. I haven't walked through the doors of the Arena Cafe since my father died 22 years ago. I grew up there. I know the smells, the light as it comes in through the transept windows; how the wood of the bar glows. It will be a tender re-entrance into a world in which I am forever six years old. My friend told me that if they are already inside when I get to the street, I should call her and she'll come outside and walk me through it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Call It By Its True Name



On Thursday, the New Haven Police Chief classified the murder of Yale graduate student Annie Le as ‘workplace violence.’ Several (feminist) voices have been raised in protest of such a classification, but not nearly enough. I now raise mine.

Annie Le was a victim of a hate crime and it has a name. Its name is gender-violence. Its name is misogyny. Annie Le was murdered because she was a woman.
She was murdered by a bully with a history of violence against women; a brute who cleaned mice cages for a living and who became enraged when a petite, brilliant young woman with a promising career did not heed his commands, was not intimidated by his text messages, did not submit to his male entitlement to authority.

The leadership and citizens of this country point their fingers at violence against women in other parts of the world. We denounce female infanticide in China, bride burnings in India, honor killings in Pakistan and Syria, sex/slave trafficking in women’s and children’s bodies in Thailand and Cambodia, female genital mutilation in Africa, but when the cultural evidence is laid at our door and within our own borders we deny, refute, contest, defend and mask its true nature under euphemisms. Or we appeal to pathologies and psychoses that are unique to the individual alone so that once again we can hide behind the veil of denial. We say, “What a sick man HE is,” rather than diagnosing the disease that is pandemic in our culture.

According to the United States Department of Justice:

Women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence than men: 78% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are women and 22% are men.

Most perpetrators of sexual violence are men. Among acts of sexual violence committed against women since the age of 18, 100% of rapes, 92% of physical assaults, and 97% of stalking acts were perpetrated by men. Sexual violence against men is also mainly male violence: 70% of rapes, 86% of physical assaults, and 65% of stalking acts were perpetrated by men.

In 8 out of 10 rape cases, the victim knows the perpetrator. Of people who report sexual violence, 64% of women and 16% of men were raped, physically assaulted, or stalked by an intimate partner. This includes a current or former spouse, cohabitating partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, or date.

In 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men were killed by an intimate partner. In recent years, an intimate partner killed approximately 33% of female murder victims and 4% of male murder victims.

Of the almost 3.5 million violent crimes committed against family members, 49% of these were crimes against spouses. 84% of spouse abuse victims were females, and 86% of victims of dating partner abuse were female.

Males were 83% of spouse murderers and 75% of dating partner murderers.

The number one killer of African-American women ages 15 to 34 is homicide at the hands of a current or former intimate partner.

50% of offenders in state prison for spousal abuse had killed their victims. Wives were more likely than husbands to be killed by their spouses: wives were about half of all spouses in the population in 2002, but 81% of all persons killed by their spouse.

The Violence Policy Center reports that of females killed with a firearm, almost two-thirds were killed by their intimate partners. The number of females shot and killed by their husband or intimate partner was more than three times higher than the total number murdered by male strangers using all weapons combined in single victim/single offender incidents in 2002.

You want euphemisms? I can come up with plenty; workplace violence, bedroom violence, barroom violence, back alley violence, living room violence, hotel violence, street violence, inside-the-car violence, in-the-shed violence, in-the-schoolhouse violence. But PLACES don’t commit violence. HANDS commit violence. And overwhelmingly those hands are raised against women.
Call it by its true name. Its name is misogyny.

For more information visit the American Bar Association’s web site: http://www.abanet.org/domviol/statistics.html#prevalence

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Things I Carry With Me


The 2009 CofC Convocation Committee put out a 'call for essays' from faculty that would reflect the theme of this year's convocation, based on the book The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. This was mine:


THINGS I CARRY WITH ME

I Carry with me Generations of French, French-Canadian and Canadian Indian ancestors,
Who taught my grandfather his sacrilegious profanities,
Who taught my grandmother and mother to make tortieres
(French-Canadian Meat Pies).
Who taught The Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary in Canuck French.
Who taught my father to sing ‘O! Canada!’ before he could speak.
And in so doing, taught me as well.

I Carry with me a Century of Stories told in French and spoken over tables that held,

Pinochle Cards and Cribbage Boards,
Bread and Beer,
Oatmeal and Crepes for breakfast.

I Carry with me a Remembrance of Catholicism; No more than a childhood memory now.

Of incense and swirling Vestments,
Of impossible Ave Marias wafting down from choir lofts as from Heaven.
Of simple faith like my grandmother’s who, if disappointed in a saint’s
response to her prayer, would turn their plastered, painted faces to
the Wall.

I Carry with me dozens of teachers whose classroom magic rivaled Houdini’s;

Miss Dalton who played Dylan for me,
Dr. Mellor who made a 16 year-old love Moby Dick (impossible),
Mr. Healey who made me write a story about a head of cabbage,
Richard Niebuhr who bared his great soul in every class,
Ralph Potter who placed Aristotle before me,
And Elisabeth who placed courage before me.

I Carry with me a thousands angers, betrayals and broken promises,

That came to me much too late, or at just the right time,
That became creative and enticing Questions.
OR, did the Questions come first and then the anger?

I Carry with me those Questions that never end,

Why does it rain equally upon the Just and the Unjust?
What Tenet, Law, Doctrine, Practice, Ritual?
And Whom do they Serve?
From what place and time and context?
From whose world view and what assumption?
On what turtle does that turtle rest?

But I Carry FROM this place also.

I Carry From this place, Gratitude,

Of which I cannot speak; of the sheer Luck or Gift to do in this place what
I love like no other thing.
Of the classroom, laboratory of experiment, of Ideas,
Of my best self, There.
Of those Questions that haunt my Dreams and Wakings,

I Carry From this place the many gifts my students present to me Every day,

Humor that stops me in mid-lecture and sets me laughing Out Loud.
Daring that poses the Questions too; more courageous than the bravest
of warriors.
Shared Learning that happens in stunning, crystallized moments of
sudden Knowing

I Carry From this place the Hope that they are, sitting there at their desks, Thinking.

~~ Louise M. Doire
July, 2009