Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Religious liberty is not just the freedom to practice one's faith. It is also the freedom to not be subjected to another's faith.

Spring Is On It's Way

papery pink and white blooms

Some Days the Past Pulls Hard

day of the dead butterfly

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

POETRY: Read More, Blog More #2

Last month Jillian, at A Room of One's Own, posted the Emily Dickinson poem that has graced my office wall for years: There's a Certain Slant of Light . . . 

This led to thoughts of it's companion above my well used secretary: Fig One, or My candle burns at both ends . . . 

Of course, this led me back to my first discovery of Ms Edna St. Vincent Millay, . . . and today's offering.

Still with me? I realize the path through my mind can be winding, with steep drop offs and sharp switchbacks, but if you stick close you should be OK. 

Just don't talk to the dwarf in the red jacket - whatever you do.

Where was I? Oh. 

For my thirteenth birthday I received two books of Ms Millay's poetry from my mother: Collected Lyrics and Sonnets. It was in this second book that I made what was for an adolescent, a life changing discovery.

Like everyone else who ever drew a breath, I had always known I was a freak.  

And then I read this:

I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed  
 - Edna St. Vincent Millay
I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
bear your body's weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity, - let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.

Wow! Here is an old woman (What did I know? I was a kid!) claiming her right to pleasure while disavowing any need for fidelity

- in a sonnet no less!

I may have been a confused adolescent, but I was beginning to realize something important. I wasn't the only person who felt the way I did. I came across my burgeoning self-awareness, and erotica, all in the same slim volume of poetry.

Years later, it still makes me smile. And I realize that we all think we're the only one.

And none of us really is.

Painting: Lust by NADIA BELTEI.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Some Life Secrets Aren't So Secret

life is about creating yourself


We should stop silencing people
 and keep debating them. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Repost that Requires No Additional Comment

This poem is also in Aint' I A Woman! A Book of Woman's poetry From Around the World, Edited by Illona Linthwaite. In fact, this is the poem by Sojurner Truth, that gave it its name. I'm not using the book's version, however. This one has a bit of narration from the poem's origin as a speech that adds to its power.

Aint' I A Woman!

Several ministers attended the second day of the Woman's Rights Convention, and were not shy in voicing their opinion of man's superiority over women. One claimed "superior intellect", one spoke of the "manhood of Christ," and still another referred to the "sin of our first mother." Suddenly, Sojourner Truth rose from her seat in the corner of the church.

Sojurner Truth
"For God's sake, Mrs.Gage, don't let her speak!" half a dozen women whispered loudly, fearing that their cause would be mixed up with Abolition.
Sojourner walked to the podium and slowly took off her sunbonnet. Her six-foot frame towered over the audience. She began to speak in her deep, resonant voice:

"Well, children, where there is so much racket, there must be something out of kilter, I think between the Negroes of the South and the women of the North - all talking about rights - the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this talking about?"

Sojourner pointed to one of the ministers. "That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere
. Nobody helps me any best place. And ain't I a woman?"

Sojourner raised herself to her full height. "Look at me! Look at my arm." She bared her right arm and flexed her powerful muscles. "I have plowed, I have planted and I have gathered into barns. And no man could head me. And ain't I a woman?"

"I could work as much, and eat as much as man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne 13 children and seen most of them sold into slavery, and when I cried out with a mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me. And ain't I a woman?"

The women in the audience began to cheer wildly.

She pointed to another minister. "He talks about this thing in the head. What's that t
hey call it?"

"Intellect," whispered a woman nearby.

"That's it, honey. What's intellect got to do with women's rights or black folks' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?"

"That little man in black there! He says women can't have as much rights as men. ‘Cause Christ wasn't a woman." She stood with outstretched arms and eyes of fire. "Where did your Christ come from?"

"Where did your Christ come from?", she thundered again. "From God and a Woman! Man had nothing to do with him!"
abolitionist logo, female slave in chains, quote Am I not a sister too
The entire church now roared with deafening applause.

"If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right-side up again. And now that they are asking to do it the men better let them."


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Killer, Zombie, Smiley Faces are Coming to Get Us . . .

killer smiley face with scars and dripping blood


I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

… I would not look with favor upon a president working to subvert the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so. And neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test — even by indirection — for it. If they disagree with that safeguard, they should be out openly working to repeal it.

I want a chief executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none; who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him; and whose fulfillment of his presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation.
Whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

- John F. Kennedy.
(emphasis mine)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I Was Just Thinking of Lady Day


Speaking strictly for me, I'm just tired of being a political pawn in partisan politics. I'm tired of my health needs and those of my daughter, my friends, and my friends' daughters being nothing more than something to bat back and forth on the national stage.

- karoli 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

This is What They Are Trying to "White Wash" From Our History Books

Old Lem
- Sterling A. Brown

I talked to old Lem
and old Lem said:
"They weigh the cotton
They store the corn
We only good enough
To work the rows;
They run the commissary
They keep the books
We gotta be grateful
For being cheated;
Whippersnapper clerks
Call us out of our name
We got to say mister
To spindling boys
They make our figgers
Turn somersets
We buck in the middle
Say, "Thankyuh, sah."
They don't come by ones
They don't come by twos
But they come by tens.
"They got the judges
They go the lawyers
They got the jury-rolls
They got the law
They don't come by ones
They got the sheriffs
They got the deputies
They don't come by twos
They got the shotguns
They got the rope
We git the justice
In the end
And they come by tens.
"Their fists stay closed
Their eyes look straight
Our hands stay open
Our eyes must fall
They don't come by ones
They got the manhood
They got the courage
They don't come by twos
We got to slink around
Hangtailed hounds.
They burn us when we dogs
They burn us when we men
They come by tens . . .

"I had a buddy
Six foot of man
Muscled up perfect
Game to the heart
They don't come by ones
Outworked and outfought
Any man or two men
They don't come by twos
He spoke out of turn
At the commissary
They gave him a day
To git out the county
He didn't take it.
He said 'Come and get me.'
They came and got him
And they came by tens.
He stayed in the county--
He lays there dead.

They don't come by ones
They don't come by twos
But they come by tens."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy Birthday to Sidney Poitier

When I ran across this picture of President Obama presenting Sidney Poitier with the Congressional Medal of Freedom, it took my breath away. Both of these men have broken barriers and faced the cruel stupidity that is racism, with courage and dignity. 

One graced my youth with his wonderful talent; the other gives me hope for the future.

Sidney Poitier and President Barack Obama


It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

- Thomas Jefferson.

Tolerance . . . It Makes a Better Picture

tolerance is a zebra intolerance is white in front and black in back with the two halves not touching

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Just Couldn't Resist This Morning

Looking for new poetry? A couple of choices . . .

black framed glasses sitting on a pile of notebooks

A guide to Poetry blogs

I Love to Support Emerging Poets


Best New Poets is an annual anthology of 50 poems from emerging writers. 

Each year, a guest editor selects 50 poems from nominations made by literary magazines and writing programs, as well as an Open Internet Competition. ...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Have You Ever Pushed a Button and Watched Years of Hard Work and Love Self-destruct?

You may notice some major changes in the look of my blog today. Although I've wanted to update for quite a while, this update was the result of a major F . . .  Well, lets just call it a boo boo and leave it at that.

I pushed the wrong button and all h . . . Well, my blog changed into something pink and bizarre. After a while I was able to reinstall the original template, only to find that my links and widgets were completely gone. 

But wait. There's more! Not content with a small . . . boo boo . . . I was able to make it much, much worse. When I followed Blogger's instructions to reinstate my back-up, a white page, full of what I can only surmise was code, came up in place of the entire blog.

Desperate at the complete loss of three year's work, I turned to my hero - my lover, best friend, and husband. You know, my own private superhero. In just a few minutes he had my blog up, with a new but working template that I was able to customize.

thank you, in script with a rainbow behind itThis isn't the first time he's saved my bacon.

He can fix anything.

And believe me, after more than twenty years together, he's had plenty of practice! 

So this post is for him.

Thank you, my love, for never shying away from the challenge.


You can be pretty sure your God is a god of your own invention when it turns out He hates all the same people you do.

- Anne Lamott.

Think Positive . .

kitty says today I'm going to catch the red dot.

Friday, February 17, 2012


I as a Catholic have absolutely no right in my thinking to foist through legislation or through other means, my doctrine of my church upon others. It is important to note that Catholics do not need the support of the civil law to be faithful to their religious convictions,

 - Boston’s late Richard Cardinal Cushing,
 1965, the man who married John F Kennedy.

My apologies to Andrew Sullivan of The Dish.

I Found a Beautiful Blog About Trees and Light and Life . . .

It's called 

painting of a tree of life showing full canopy and full root system

from: “God Gave Christianity A Masculine Feel” – And Other S*** Christians Say

... Every time we say that women cannot lead or preach, another woman in our church is convinced she is evil and has a rebellious spirit rather than a gift and a calling from God.

Every time we stand up and condemn abortion and say it was murder, another woman in our church learns she will always have to hide her past to retain her dignity.

Every time we condemn homosexuality, another woman in our church learns she has to lie to us to protect her family. ...

Every time we insist God says women must always submit to their husbands, another woman in our church believes if she can just change herself enough, God will step in and stop the abuse.

- Joe Hilder on Me and My Big Mouth.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

If we were in complete control of nature, would we protect it?

art photography of man tethered to cloud and earth



The power of all corporations ought to be limited, as the growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses.

You know. Constitution. Framer.

A Timely delight posted on 3 Quarks Daily

- by Sarah Firisen

I'd like to have my own Super PAC
That on my behalf could attack
Of course any sign of collusion
Would be just an illusion
I wouldn't tell them how to act

I know that no contact's allowed
But what's the harm if I just say out loud
"It would so make my day
If your ads were to say
That only I stand out in the crowd"

Oh, the money you'll all want to raise
To make sure you can heap me with praise
And will you please read my mind
Where you'll happen to find
The names of those I'd like to faze

The PAC's name's no concern of mine
Whatever you choose will be fine
But if I had a voice
And was given a choice
I might suggest "Sarah's Divine!"

But of course, it's all up to you
My friends won't be on your crew
We won't speak and won't meet
I'll be just shocked when you tweet
Some of the slander and lies that you'll spew

So I guess that what I need right now
Is to find someone rich I can wow
I mean, really rich
Then I'll make my pitch
But all connivance I'll disavow

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Here are the values that I stand for. I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me those are traditional values and that's what I stand for.


Ellen DeGeneres dancing with arms waving

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day, Love.

I Have My Plans for the Day. How About You?

I was going to do something today but I haven't finished doing nothing from yesterday.

A Dubious Anniversary

a sad beagle puppy sitting down

Among the many things forgotten about the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini on Valentine’s Day 1989 is that it did not stop at naming Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses. The author was condemned to death “along with all the editors and publishers aware of its contents”.

... He had also declared war against those not of the faith — if mere awareness of the contents of the Verses was a crime, then arguing that one was not of the same religion and blasphemy or apostasy did not apply was no longer a defense.

... His recognition that awareness itself of the contents of a controversial work was a crime was both an acknowledgement that knowledge is dangerous, and stands as an indictment of readers along with writers.

... In the 23 years since the fatwa on The Satanic Verses was first pronounced, much has been written about the responsibility of writers – most of it a veiled justification of censorship – or about Rushdie’s plight. But the Ayatollah’s fatwa cut out the possibility of engaged criticism by the faithful – disallowing them an expression of dissent or offense ...

... what he indicted 23 years ago was not just the act of writing, but the crime of reading; the Ayatollah’s stated aim was to assassinate readers along with writers.

If You Would Like to Support Breast Cancer Research,

without supporting Komen . . . try:

Breast Cancer Action - "We demand accountability.

See also: 'Think before you pink' campaign, demanding transparency in pink-washed product marketing.

"A cure is not enough. We have to prevent it. The cures we have aren't working." - Executive Director Karuna Jaggar.


American Cancer Society - Donations intended for breast cancer research and screening can be earmarked to support NBCCEDP (the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program). 

They have focused heavily on social disparities as they relate to cancer diagnosis and treatment, and have awarded more than $113 million in grants to researchers looking into social disparity as it relates to cancer.


The National Breast Cancer Coalition - They aim to promote research into causes of breast cancer and the best possible treatment for the disease, access to treatment for all women, and encourage breast cancer advocates to speak up and stand up against the disease.

While the Susan G. Komen foundation has raised about $1.9 billion for breast cancer over the course of the organization's 30-year existence, last year the NBCC convinced Congress to award more than $2.1 billion to breast cancer research. And they did it without the middleman.


The Breast Cancer Research Foundation - Ninety cents of every dollar donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation goes to supporting breast cancer research. (Komen only gives about 20 cents per dollar to research) 

Unite For Her - Unite For Her aims to help breast cancer patients integrate other therapies that would complement the care they're being given by their doctors. Think acupuncture, massage, yoga, counseling, and other treatments that address a woman's spiritual and emotional needs during what could be a long and difficult fight against cancer.

The organization's aim is to "educate, empower, and restore."

According to Breast Cancer Action's Executive Director Karuna Jaggar, breast cancer isn't overfunded; its funding is poorly allocated, being spent on organizational bloat. ...

Source: Erin Gloria Ryan, Jezebel.

Monday, February 13, 2012

"Breast Cancer is NOT a Pink Ribbon"

black book cover for The Scar with scar on front

The SCAR Project shows the reality 
of breast cancer.

Did You Think I Forgot?

Learn more about Black History Month and African-Americans who have made extraordinary contributions and achievements in their fields

Etta James album cover with close up of ms James

The album cover sleeve of Etta James by Etta James, released in 1962. 
(Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)

Sunday, February 12, 2012


It seems a little strange that we [Catholics] are so wildly exercised about the 'murder' (and the word is of course correct) of an unborn infant by abortion, or even the prevention of conception which is hardly murder, and yet accept without a qualm the extermination of millions of helpless and innocent adults, some of whom may be Christians and even our friends rather than our enemies. I submit that we ought to fulfill the one without omitting the other.

 - Thomas Merton,

Even standing still, they look fast

adult cheetah standing on a large rock

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I should welcome the poor to my feast,

For they are God’s children.
I should welcome the sick to my feast,
For they are God’s joy.
Let the poor sit with Jesus at the highest place,
And the sick dance with the angels.

God bless the poor,
God bless the sick,
And bless our human race.
God bless our food,
God bless our drink,
All homes, O God embrace.
- St. Brigid
Feast day, February 1.
close up painting of Jesus

Friday, February 10, 2012


“Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.

And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression.

And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission.

How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.

I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense.

Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.” 

Thursday, February 9, 2012


And you’re not allowed to have a law that “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity” of a given minority.

It’s easy to pass such laws, given that minorities, being in the minority, are easily outnumbered. 

But this is what the Constitution and equal protection and the rule of law are for — making sure that the majority can’t pull stunts like that just because there happen to be more of them.

(emphasis all mine)

From Me, To You . . .

child's outstretched hand holding sparkly red heart charm

Happy Birthday
to the best part of me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

This is One of My Daughter's Favorite Poems

spooky painting of ghost on dark stairs

[I met a man who wasn't there]
    by Hughes Mearns
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there
He wasn't there again today
I wish, I wish he'd go away...

When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn't see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don't you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don't slam the door... (slam!)

Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn't there
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently.

There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted. ... Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.

poster of clenched fist and defend equality love unites

Remember This for Shark Week

What To Do About Sharks 

If a hammerhead or a great white makes
waves during your workshop or poetry reading,
don't flap your elbows or slap at it with rolled
manuscripts. Sharks thrive on visual stimulation. 

Blow out candles. Ease away from the podium,
and wait at least ten minutes before going
for a light switch. Join hands to keep karma
with the other poets. It's okay to recite
poems you memorized in fifth grade,
Joyce Kilmer, in desperation, even Longfellow.

Rule of thumb: it's a shark not a dolphin
if it is slamming about the room, hugging,
blowing air kisses. Performers, sharks
are almost all instinct and no brain. Without
a sense of occasion, they'll crash any gig,
underwater or not, from Madagascar to Malibu.

Being eyed by a shark can be exasperating,
but don't rush or shift from foot to foot
to induce motion sickness. Sharks are immune.
They are, however, dyslexic. Flash cover quotes,
prize-winning poems directly in front of both eyes.
Better yet—stop reading. Pull your new hardback
from a knapsack, and if the shark noses you
with repeated sharp jabs, hit it on the snout.

If all else fails, sharks have a keen sense
of hearing. Sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic
at the top of your lungs. Sharks have short
attention spans, get bored, leave if there is
no open mike. So, swing into another verse:
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

Copyright 2008.

Monday, February 6, 2012


I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the First Lady of the United States of America.

 – First Lady Michelle Obama

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Good Bit of the Country Could Use a Summer Poem Right About Now

Little Summer Poem Touching The Subject Of Faith
by Mary Oliver
Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun's brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can't hear

anything, I can't see anything --
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green
stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker --
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing --
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet --
all of it
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body
is sure to be there.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Iqbal Hussain, Voice in the Wilderness

Painting of two seated women in muted blues and greens, one arm over the shoulder of the other

Iqbal Hussain, Pakistan’s most infamous artist, grew up in the Heera Mandi, Lahore’s red light district, among the “dancing girls” who are now his models.

[H]e calls himself a "voice in the wilderness," who brings attention to the squalid conditions of an ignored segment of Pakistani society.

“I’m trying to bring this in front of people,” Hussain said. Heera Mandi’s prostitutes “deserve to be respected," he says. "Their children need to be educated. They need health care.” 

seated woman in bright orange sari looks straight ahead

Because of his choice of female models, Iqbal Hussain like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) is called a "painter of prostitutes and dancing girls."

three young women in blues and pinks perched on a round table with their backs to us

Iqbal Hussain is an artist who has opened the shutters of the world he lives in to a reluctant ‘other.’ Since his first controversial solo exhibition in the ’80s, his bold disclosures have been lauded universally and shown around the world through teams of documentary filmmakers. He is a prolific painter whose studio is always open to his troubled community who tend to get together after their working hours and chat. ...

Included in the display were allegorical paintings; groups of women uniformly dressed and held at gunpoint. The artist creates powerful, dark, dramatic scenes, as well as the lighter images confronting the observer with the humanity of his subjects. One discovers sadness as well as moments of cheer, the love between mother and child and trust between friends. Once the mask of the profession is removed, one recognises the vulnerability of people born into a way of life from which there is little chance of escape. ...

- Poignantworks: The world of Iqbal Hussain,

Friday, February 3, 2012

My grumbling wife -
if only she were here!
This moon tonight...

- Issa


Liberty can not be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have…a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, and I mean the characters and conduct of their leaders.

 - John Adams
articulating the most eloquent summary of America’s ideals
and the importance and necessity of having an informed public.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Six More Weeks . . .

groundhog standing on back legs in green field

Politics Over Promises

Would the real Susan G. Komen be satisfied that the legacy of her sister's promise? Would she want access to breast cancer treatment to be dependent on a woman's income? Or would she hope that "curing cancer" meant espousing an ideology that sought to heal and help rather than divide and deny? That sounds a lot more "pro-life" to me.


Susan G. Komen Foundation Bows to Anti-Choice Bullying; Stops Contributing to Planned Parenthood.

Susan G. Komen Foundation Begins Backpedaling for the Cure.

No Time . . .

close up painting of Alice's white rabbit


"A poet's work. To name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep." 

"Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties"

It is this idea of speech as intrinsically good that has been transformed. 

Today, free speech is as likely to be seen as a threat to liberty as its shield. By its very nature, many argue, speech damages basic freedoms. It is not intrinsically a good but inherently a problem because speech inevitably offends and harms. Speech, therefore, has to be restrained, not in exceptional circumstances, but all the time and everywhere, especially in diverse societies with a variety of deeply held views and beliefs. Censorship (and self-censorship) has to become the norm. "Self-censorship", as the Muslim philosopher and spokesman for the Bradford Council of Mosques Shabbir Akhtar put it at the height of the Rushdie affair, "is a meaningful demand in a world of varied and passionately held convictions. What Rushdie publishes about Islam is not just his business. It is everyone's – not least every Muslim's – business."

Increasingly politicians and policy makers, publishers and festival organizers, liberals and conservatives, in the East and in the West, have come to agree. Whatever may be right in principle, many now argue, in practice one must appease religious and cultural sensibilities because such sensibilities are so deeply felt. 

We live in a world, so the argument runs, in which there are deep-seated conflicts between cultures embodying different values. For such diverse societies to function and to be fair, we need to show respect for other peoples, cultures, and viewpoints. Social justice requires not just that individuals are treated as political equals, but also that their cultural beliefs are given equal recognition and respect. The avoidance of cultural pain has, therefore, come to be regarded as more important than the abstract right to freedom of expression. As the British sociologist Tariq Modood has put it, "If people are to occupy the same political space without conflict, they mutually have to limit the extent to which they subject each others' fundamental beliefs to criticism." What the anti-Baals of today most fear is starting arguments. What they most want is for the world to go to sleep.

The consequence of all this has been the creation not of a less conflicted world, but of one that is more sectarian, fragmented and tribal. 

As the novelist Monica Ali has put it, "If you set up a marketplace of outrage you have to expect everyone to enter it. Everyone now wants to say, 'My feelings are more hurt than yours'."  

The more that policy makers give license for people to be offended, the more that people will seize the opportunity to feel offended. 

It leads to the encouragement of interest groups and the growth of sectarian conflict.

cartoon of head with many hands over mouth, censorship

(all emphasis mine)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


[E]volution actually provides a powerful antidote to racism. From an evolutionary point of view, we’re all African and our differences really are insignificant.

Reverse: A Lynching

- Ansel Elkins

Return the tree, the moon, the naked man
Hanging from the indifferent branch
Return blood to his brain, breath to his heart
Reunite the neck with the bridge of his body
Untie the knot, undo the noose
Return the kicking feet to ground
Unwhisper the word jesus
Rejoin his penis with his loins
Resheathe the knife Regird the calfskin belt through trouser loops
Refasten the brass buckle
Untangle the spitting men from the mob
Unsay the word nigger
Release the firer’s finger from its trigger
Return the revolver to its quiet holster
Return the man to his home
Unwidow his wife
Unbreak the window
Unkiss the crucifix of her necklace
Unsay Hide the children in the back, his last words
Repeal the wild bell of his heart
Reseat his family at the table over supper
Relace their fingers in prayer, unbless the bread
Rescind the savagery of men
Return them from animal to human, reborn in the long run
Backward to the purring pickup
Reignite the Ford’s engine, its burning headlights
Retreat down the dirt road, tires speeding
Backward into rising dust
Backward past cornfields, past the night floating moths
Rescind the whiskey from the guts
Unswallowed, unswigged, the tongue unstung
Rehouse the flask in the field coat’s interior pocket
Unbare the teeth, unwhet the appetite
Return the howl to its wolf
Return the shovel to the barn, the rope to the horse’s stable
Resurrect the dark from its heart housed in terror

Reenter the night through its door of mercy

This poem was one of the winners of the 2011 “Discovery” Poetry Contest.

A public memorial in Duluth Minn. commemorating the 1920 lynching of three men

A public memorial in Duluth, Minn.,
commemorates the 1920 lynching of three men.