A Repudiation of Republican Rhetoric

Sorry; I couldn’t resist the temptation to alliterate.

I admit it. I’m pissed. I have encountered way too many mindless memes from my conservative friends recently. (Oops, I did it again!) Most of my conservative friends and family members know to steer clear of political conversations when I am around. They normally keep quiet out of respect for my difference of opinion. But that hasn’t always been the case, and I guess I ask for it by posting so many of my own progressive memes on Facebook. It really is the only place where I feel safe getting up and walking out when the conversation gets heated. I can’t help being vocal, though. I’m a huge Bernie Sanders fan, and I’m excited by his platform. Perhaps that is what led to one of my family members posting this meme today:

I hope that is not the case, but I’m not at all surprised by the rhetoric. I’ve heard it before. The most common comment I’ve heard is that “Liberals are the reason so much is wrong with our country today.” They don’t come right out and say it, but the sentiment is pretty clear: Liberals (AKA progressives) are evil people who should be locked up and kept safe from running our world amok.  Continue reading

Civility

“I hope this means that teens will find more acceptance and love in their homes. We don’t need more homeless [or suicidal] teens.” -Steve Evans

By Common Consent, a Mormon Blog

I watched Elder Oaks’ Saturday afternoon remarks with great interest; being somewhat familiar with talks he has given over the last few years, I anticipated that he would address the issue of same-sex marriage, as he has done in the past. And while same-sex marriage was one of the subtexts that ran throughout his address, Elder Oaks’ topic was instead on the challenge of loving others and living with differences. He focused on a key question: why is it so difficult to have Christlike love for one another? He addressed that question and by so doing, offered counsel that was heartily welcome if not new.

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How to Deal With an Adult Bully

Just don’t.  Standing up for yourself will not stop them.  Reasoning with them will not stop them.  Even ignoring them does not stop them.

I have many conservative friends on my Facebook account.  I know some are right-winged due to their repeated political posts which I often disagree with. However, I rarely feel attacked when I respond. But one (I’ll call him “Buck”) was blocked some time ago because his comments are often hateful,mean-spirited, flat out cruel, and always politically motivated. I decided I was best not seeing his posts, so I kept him as a friend and blocked his activities. That was not the smartest thing for me to do, because I could still see his responses to politically motivated posts of mutual friends.

I’ll call one mutual friend Ed.  Ed’s a great guy; I’ve always liked him, and even when we disagree, we remain friendly.  Buck has never been this way. I think Buck bullies because people disagree with him, and that just makes them sick and wrong (in his vociferous opinion). However, disagreeing with someone (even vehemently), is never cause for bullying.

Give me a U, an L, a Y, an I, and an N.

Recently, Ed posted a statement from Teddy Roosevelt that I really wanted to respond to. It began like this:

Teddy R. post

 

The first unnamed responses came from someone else.

I learned pretty quickly that no matter what the argument was, there would be no disagreeing with Buck, because he wasn’t listening. I didn’t jump in until Buck had already made blatantly racist comments.   I wondered how  Native Americans fit into his equation, so I put my comment on Teddy aside, and asked.  (Dumb, I know.)  I thought his response was downright cold, but I wanted to make sure that I understood him correctly.  People define things differently, and I was hoping I was wrong. Continue reading

Idiolect: Not Just for Idiots

another way to say personal linguistic quirks

Idiolect?  I honestly did not know that I had one.  It never even occurred to me that I might.   I mean, I have been to other countries, and I always enjoy people who speak differently from me, but I have been idiocentric about my speech. I assumed that only American populations on the fringes of the main population had a dialect of Standard American English that was different from my own; most specifically Southerners and New Englanders.  And yes, there are other variations , such as African-American Vernacular, but I always thought of African-American Vernacular as its own language—not so much a dialect.  I guess you could say that I have somehow managed to convince myself that I am the perfect example of Standard American English, and that every other dialect is a variance of my own.

But then I got to thinking about it. First of all, where, oh where, did I get the idea that Standard American English is the international ideal that all other language groups aspire to?  Is it because English is the international business language? If so, who is to say that Standard American English is the internationally accepted business English dialect? (Some say it’s Oxford—oh say it’s not true!)  And even then, business English is only universal to international businesses, so what makes it right in Chicago neighborhoods, greater Illinois, or anywhere else in the United States? Continue reading

Confessions of a Third-Grade Bigot

My father often tells a story about an event that happened when I was quite young.  And while the story has nothing to do with me, it has everything to do with my understanding of literacy, and so I tell it too.   It seems that a man came from out of town on business. Dad met him at an informal reception in the workplace, and upon learning that my father was Polish, the man began telling Polack jokes.  This particular situation can be easily compared to the same man visiting, and upon meeting a particularly beautiful blonde colleague; he begins telling dumb blonde jokes. My father might have laughed at the first basically benign joke, but as the jokes continued, and as time went on, became more distasteful and bigoted, my father was no longer smiling.  Dad knew that he could have just left the room; instead, he waited for a lull in the barrage, and asked pointedly, “Do you speak Polish?”  When the man answered negatively, Dad asked “How does it feel to be dumber than a Polack?”  This put an effective stop to the jokes.  This particular story has stayed with me throughout my life.  My dad tells the story often, always in response to some particularly bigoted statement by a family member or acquaintance.  I think the story stays with me for the same reason. I mean, how can a monolingual individual possibly be more intelligent than one who is bilingual? But I think now, too, of the gender-related as well as stereotypical issues with dumb-blonde jokes.  How can we use language, gender, hair color, skin color, or country of origin as a measure of worth?  Why do we?

A similar story is told by my mother, always in response to the assumption that she must be bilingual.  Both of my maternal grandparents were immigrants. My grandfather, an illegal German immigrant who jumped ship from a merchant vessel when it landed in California. My Grandmother came as an Austrian refugee of the Holocaust.  The two met and married in California, and spoke fluent, albeit different, dialects of German in their home.  When my mother was born, local school officials suggested that speaking two languages, one at home, one in public, would confuse my mother (despite the fact that her two sisters, both more than a decade older than her, were bilingual). So my mother was raised speaking English-only.  I feel that my mom was deprived of some important linguistic skills that could have opened so many doors for her.

I think of the general attitudes and discourses regarding literacy today, and I can see how closely related they are to the attitudes and discourses regarding the first languages of my grandparents, and the value they placed on learning English as direct evidence of their worthiness to become citizens of the United States.  Grandma spoke a dialect of German commonly referred to as Platdeutsch (Low German), while Grandpa spoke Hochdeutsch (High German). Grandma, being painfully aware of the disadvantaged classification of her dialect, made every effort to adapt her skills to accommodate the more privileged dialect of Hochdeutsch.  She knew how this advantaged categorization of language affected the way others classified her, so she reverted to her Platdeutsch only when arguing with my grandfather as a point of irritation.  Grandma’s painful awareness of the privileging of dialects led her to insist on the use of “proper English” at all times, just as she insisted that my mother never leave the house without gloves on.  Both modes of communication, the one verbal, the other visual, were distinct determiners of status in the eyes of my Grandmother.  Much of this insistence on “proper,” albeit arbitrarily defined behavior, is still evident in the values expressed by my mother today, especially when it comes to language.

As a child I came to adopt these same values, insisting that there was just one correct way to communicate, and that “proper” English must be used as a method of maintaining societal integrity.  When I think about those attitudes in relation to my own life, I think most specifically of a field trip that I participated in when I was in the third grade. This particular field trip was significant to me at the time, and has stayed significant as part of my growth as a literate woman. In retrospect, it has become even more significant to me as a way of understanding differences in backgrounds and cultures that contribute to the growth of a literate America.

This was the year my family moved from a middle-income neighborhood in “white American suburbia” to a rented home in Lark, a tiny defunct mining town that housed a

variety of elderly widows, Mexicans, Navajos, and single-parent families.  My parents were attracted to this location because of its low rent, and more importantly, its proximity to the property they were planning to build a new home on in an exclusive gated community.  In my new school, I was among the minority—a child from one of only two intact white middle-class families in the whole town. We only lived there for two years, but those two years shaped my early attitudes about reading, writing, and communication in the English language. Continue reading