Tag Archives: justice

Thanks, Twitter (2013 ed.)—Part 3

This is the third and last Twitter-compilation post for 2013 (Part 1: Seeing the Real | Part 2: Evolving Deliberately).
Changing the World includes tweets on social development, justice, activism, politics, and progress.

3. Changing the World

Long Reads and Research

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Her church dean read the parable of the vineyard. And the children at Vacation Bible School protested the rules of the game.

“Grace is not attractive,” she thought. “It’s not fair!” [Watch the video.]

Once upon a time, I shared Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability and shame with some relatives. The blowback I got in return was epic.

I may never know whether they were reacting to the content. Or to her casual self-effacement. Or to her language (the Work of the People site flags this clip with a “language warning”).

Some respondents thought her talk profane, as if there is anything in the universe more sacred than the vulnerable, intentional connection of two made in the image of God.

And dismissing her could even have been a proxy for dismissing me, the niece who refused shame and preferred integrity. I don’t know.

From Susan Morgan Ostapkowicz's Painting "The Outsider"

From Susan Morgan Ostapkowicz’s Painting “The Outsider”

But listening to “Grace isn’t attractive” today made me wonder if the blowback wasn’t about any of these things; if instead it was a kind of resistance to what Brown points to here: what’s “fair” and what’s “just,” who earns rights to be “in the circle” or defined “out,” and who gets to “own” the group and keep others from messing it up…

Fundamentalist religion has very strong ideas about this—about fairness, justice, and the boundaries of good and deviant. It also resists and shuts down challenges to those ideas, regardless of their source. It can’t stand the idea that maybe it isn’t the gatekeeper and maybe its understanding isn’t the measure.

If you’ve ever read one of the parables attributed to Jesus and completely disagreed with the punchline of the story, you’ll understand what Brown is talking about when she says: “It’s not fair! I still don’t get it; I still don’t like it! I like stuff you can earn.”

Grace is polarizing. It’s horrific. And it’s exactly what we need in a culture that’s been stripped of it.

A Writing November

Cartoon of open newspaper with "Correction" advertisement: "The Downing St memo seems to be at odds with pretty much anything you remember seeing and hearing in the media in the runup to the Iraq war.  Your memory is in error. We regret your mistake."

(c) Tom Toles (2005) | “The First Draft of the Rewrite of History”

I’ve decided to participate in this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo 2013), and will be using the 50,000 word-challenge to reboot my research on the British executive branch’s structure, values, personnel, and communications during the 18 months before the UK- and US invaded Iraq.*

This year marked the 10th anniversary of the March 2003 invasion and the 8th year since I began to study how the Blair administration rendered Saddam Hussein’s Iraq “non-compliant” with international protocols on weapons of mass destruction and an “imminent” threat to the UK national interest.

I’ve already written and presented about this case for other communication academics (Popular Culture Association, 2008; Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 2009), and I’ve also written a 150-page doctoral study about it with a bibliography nearly 25 pages long. I may write for these readers again in the future, but not next month.

November is about writing about the British executive branch, weapons of mass destruction, secrecy, freedom of information, and civil servants, not for other academics and not as part of a degree program, but for members of the public: people like you who are savvy and curious, who don’t necessarily know a lot about the details of this case, and who care about good governance and want to read high-quality, engaging content about it.

I’m not going to write and revise next  month, though; I’m just going to write. By the end of the month, I’ll know whether I have it in me to turn this year-old baby into a book in 2014.

My goals for November are simple enough, and I’m declaring them here to increase the risk:

  1. Write ~2,000 words six days each week for 30 days, or a minimum of 1,670 words daily.
  2. Focus on generating these 50,000-50,100 words, rather than fretting about whether they are good words.
  3. Remember how much I love this project and wonder why it’s taken me so long post-graduation to return to it.

If you’d like to track my progress through November, there’ll be a word count widget in the right column of my homepage. And if you have a fiction or non-fiction book in you too, then you still have a day to sign up! As of tonight, nearly 190,000 other writers are waiting for you.

Expect an update on this from me in a few weeks.


* This intention marks me as a NaNo Rebel. Good luck to all the novelists too!

Split Court, Split Future?

Win_LambdaLegal5-4.

With this vote on the case United States vs. Windsor, a divided US Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (1996) as unconstitutional and ended Edith Windsor’s six-year battle with the government. After her wife Thea Spyer’s death, the now 83-year-old Windsor was forced to pay more than $600,000 in state and federal estate taxes—a burden that the government would not have levied had her spouse been “Theo” and not “Thea.” (Read the full Windsor opinion.) The majority held that “violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government.” Federal agencies are already adjusting to the ruling.

The justices also ruled 5-4 in the matter of California’s Proposition 8. In Hollingsworth vs. Perry (formerly Brown vs. Perry and Schwarznegger vs. Perry), the Court found that the petitioners did not have standing to appeal the district court’s ruling of unconstitutionality. The district court had ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional, and the State of California didn’t appeal that decision; the Supreme Court decided that the civil society organizations who had  promoted Proposition 8 did not have the authority to appeal in the State’s place. (Check out this analysis on SCOTUSblog, and read the full Hollingsworth opinion.)

My Twitter timeline was full of joy about these rulings—yet at the same time these determinations come at the end of a wild week in governance with disappointing impacts nationwide. Section 5 of the Voter Rights Act (1965/2005) was undermined and Section 4 was struck down. The Supreme Court determined that the slavery-era percentage approach to “race” trumped the Cherokee people’s membership rules. And the Court decided that an employer is only automatically liable for workplace harassment if the harasser is a direct line supervisor. (Opinion: Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl & Case Files | Opinion: Vance vs. Ball State University & Case Files)

“Volumes of evidence supported Congress’ de­termination that the prospect of retrogression was real. Throwing out pre-clearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” —Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, dissenting in Shelby Co. vs. Holder

So what’s next for the US? Reactions to this week’s decisions have been divided along lines of ethnicity, class, sexuality, and religion or philosophy; many of us celebrate some decisions while being sorrowful about others because we have more concerns than one.

What’s left after our groups sharply disagree, not just on beliefs or ideas, but also on the practical issues of how to treat whole segments of the population? If we sit at a common table (and there are some who, contra the Supreme Court’s Shelby Co. decision, point to sustained and entrenched contemporary discrimination and dispute that the nation’s table is commonly shared), what is it that binds us, demographic and philosophical differences and all?

Will the US hold together over the next few years? How are we One and not merely Many? Is our collective future to be as split as our Supreme Court is today? I don’t think we can afford that. I’m interested in alternatives. You?


Cheers to Steve Claborn for the Fishkin link on Shelby County, and to Carolyn Parson for the OPM statement.

Makers: A Reflection

I enjoyed watching PBS’ Makers documentaries a few weekends ago: Women Who Make America. I also enjoyed reading other people’s reactions to it on Twitter and other sites where women activists gather.

Sometimes these historical retrospectives make me nervous because it seems that we prefer to remember great movements as clean; we like our heroes (male and female) to be simple and coherent—and they rarely are.

The 20thC women’s movement still holds the fragmentation and internecine conflicts it had at its start and we haven’t yet worked out how to advance multicolored solidarity amongst ourselves rather than monochromatic uniformity.

As much as people like Phyliss Schafly often baffle me, I realize that we all have our parts in the story. I’ve been looking at some of the young teenagers I’ve met since I moved and it makes me wonder what model of Woman they’re seeing in me. I still have crisp memories of some of the older women around me when I was their age; some of them showed me by example what not to become.

Do I consume the people around me? Do I encourage them to be as large as they are? Do I hinder them to promote myself? Would I sacrifice them to save the system? Can I recognize them as part of my community even when they don’t manifest as I expect? Do I stand up for those whose experience is absolutely not mine?

I am an instance of Woman in this world; does my instance add value?

Women Fired Up

A book recommendation via the Son of Baldwin community: Dr. Barbara Ransby‘s biography of Ella Baker, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision.

Ella Josephine Baker (1903-1986) was an under-recognized organizer and operative in the 20th Century U.S Black civil rights movement. In Virginia, North Carolina, New York, and across the Southern states over nearly 30 years, Baker supported and helped to grow some of the most visible labor, voting, and black equality groups including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Crusade for Citizenship, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Ultimately her distrust of hierarchical leadership and support for participatory democracy led her to work less with such well-promoted groups and more with egalitarian and grassroots collectives. She remained socially engaged until her death at 83 years old. 

Human Symphony Foundation logo

This weekend, three contemporary female civil rights activists were honored at the annual Living Legends for Service to Humanity program in Ashton, MD. The 2013 honorees were Ella Baker’s peer, U.S. civil rights activist Juanita AbernathyLouisiana native Sister Helen Prejean, and India’s Dr. Sunitha Krishnan. Sr. Prejean has devoted her life to campaigning against the death penalty and the social order that supports it. Her acceptance speech described the “fire” that can motivate and sustain life-long commitment to people regardless of their social standing and to creating a more just world with them. Dr. Krishnan, founder of anti-trafficking and pro-education organization Prajwaladedicated her award to “a legendary generation” who would act for the equality and worth of all people, regardless of gender, caste, or background.

Next year’s award program will highlight educators.