September 2007

Like many of you all, I’m watching and waiting to see what happens in Burma. It’s a hope mixed with horror and fear, but it is still hope.



An open letter to the Most Reverend Katherine Jefferts-Schori:

I have come to understand that your grace has authorized a settlement by which the ECUSA is to stay in the global communion. While every Christian should hark to hear unity preached among us, I am concerned as to the cost. Specifically, the provision that will be no more queer bishops. This cannot be seen as anything but a retreat. But surely, your grace managed to get a concession that the opposition would cease their dehumanizations?

Your grace would surely avoid the folly of handing over moral authority to a group that has shown no caution for our dignity or even our lives. It is imaginable to me to be forced to discuss my adoption by God as if it is a thing to be debated. Foolish and ignorant of God, but imaginable nonetheless. The world has often doubted the grace of the Almighty. But the image of God is something else entirely. If we must debate whether or not we deserve to be, then we have sat down for dinner with wolves.

Can we indeed talk when the conversation is about the “manner” of our lives? In British euphemism, I fear we have lost the ability to actually speak of ourselves. Once we have conceded that it is a mere matter of personal habit, we have admitted that our race was in vain. The phrase defines our cause as subordinate. All the while, the schismatics press forward with a strange and alien notion of polity. The innovation of wandering bishops is far more poisonous than any scandal.

Finally, your grace, I plead to you that you have made an intolerable compromise. Indeed, your grace, I believe that your manner of life may be unsettling to the broader communion. You see, rumor has it that your grace is a woman.

In Christ,


The challenge, however, rests in persuading people that their grandparents, parents and they themselves have harmed their daughters. Moreover, advocates must convince a skeptical public that men will marry a woman who has not undergone the procedure and that circumcision is not necessary to preserve family honor. It is a challenge to get men to give up some of their control over women.

This, by the way, is the difficult and real work of reducing harm and eroding the support of a practice like FGM. It will not be stopped by the shallow and callous bravery of armchair neo-colonialists who demonstrate their commitment by signing a petition.

Legal bans mean little. The force of law does not immediate encompass the power of worldview. This is the long haul. This is the real task. It seems to be taking shape here in community organizing, sexual education, and the recruitment of allies. Now, undoubtedly, there may be some criticisms to be made here, and some might be impatient with this kind of gradualist approach.* But how many genital mutilations have you successfully stopped lately?

Last time out, I took some unholy flak for being some kind of moral weakling, unable to face up to just how wrong FGM is. My point is that my personal opinion matters very little. The ways in which we choose to deal with cultural change do matter. And the simplistic and colonial fantasy of a objective solution has only made things worse.

That’s not irony. It’s our moral culpability.


*For one, the article notes how reformers have to reassure folks that circumcision is not necessary to prevent homosexuality. I’m not entirely willing to bracket my communities right to exist, but I’m at least willing to discuss the relative levels of harm involved. I’d rather see the beginning of a more comprehensive sexual education model than find a sticking point. There is no obligation to view the currently effective as the long term goal.

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Today, a small town is being filled with witnesses who are there in body and spirit to see and to say the truth.

I cannot be there in person, but I feel the need to remind myself that the world of Jena is the same world that I inhabit.

Jena is not a southern thing. It is not a small town thing. It is not an accident. It is not an aberration. It is not anything other than the status quo, the enactment of racism through law.

Mychal Bell is one more in a long line of black men who have been sacrificed to our sense of law and order, caught up by a system of gesture, code, and power that enforces apartheid. From the Scottsboro boys, to Amadou Diallo, to Rodney King, to criminalization of poverty and addiction…

We are living in such world as Jena, where the codes are as strict as they are unwritten.

We must free the Jena Six.

Justice, and only justice.


Liza Sabater, who ought to know better, goes for the fail with her current entry.

this image fails at constructive discourse

I shouldn’t have to explain why this is wrong. So I won’t.

But thanks for making me sick.


The SO and I had been talking about some of this stuff for a while…when you teach in a troubled school in a tough part of town, you face kids with emotional and behavior issues. So autism and other “EBD problems” had been discussed.

But I started talking about the Judge Rotenberg Center, and her mood changed. Sharply. What had been an animated conversation turned very soft as I explained what went on there, and how so far, it has been impossible to stop the brutality.

Finally, she said something welcome but unexpected.

“I think I just realized why it’s so important for you to read those blogs.”

More than once, I had been reading and she had begun to close my computer, not so subtly reminding me that I could be paying attention to her and not that. And it sometimes had grated her that I’d been willing to spend our limited time together doing work that wasn’t strictly necessary. I doubt I have a total free pass here, (nor am I seeking one) but it was a reminder that this information, these connections…matter.

I’m going back to school…and it’s tough on me right now. I’m listening to other people introduce why they care about classes that talk about marginalization and what’s wrong with the world. And I’m struggling to fight back the overwhelming sense of cynicism I feel about such declarations, about them, their motives, and ultimately….my own.

Back to the happier bit. We reprised this discussion later, when she was telling me about how a class she was taking (at a progressive school of education) had shown a video from Autism Speaks. And I went full bore in to “Not This Shit Again” mode and started showing her some stuff at ballastexistenz that challenges that kind of rhetoric.

She recognized it immediately. “This was the other source they used for the class.”

I’m still angry as hell that a school that claims to be at the vanguard of education would even give “equal time” to such viewpoints…in a show of the continued downfall of objectivity into amoral neutrality…but I was just so relieved that one of these online voices that I hear had made it into the world on its own.

This is why I read. After everything, I still have the crazy idea that it’s not too late to change the world. Perhaps I’m most drawn to this story in particular in proving that is that it has nothing to do with any of the mumbo jumbo that I have picked up as the language of my profession. I don’t mind speaking in post-modern, but I still have a soft spot for Orwellian honesty.

So I just wanted to say thank you.

You’re why I read.


That’s the title of a course that starts today, where Sly will learn more about how a pattern of oppression becomes a political economy, a way of doing things that supports society in which it occurs. The way racialized thought becomes the socio-economic instituion of slavery…the way fear of the disabled becomes institutionalization. Prejudice gets systematized, and then things get really scary.

Just as a quick note, Samhita writes about Western companies advertising for gender selection in Indian media. She’s under the premise that it’s problematic because it both expresses and substantiates a claim on the value of the lives of those being selected against, girls.

But she’s mistaken. It’s just mothers who have decided that they do not want to enter into a binding relationship of care with a child who will require more resources to raise.

And that’s totally okay.


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