What’s With the Tendency to Demonize People?

Look at the following search that brought somebody to my blog:

I have written posts that were critical of Shakesville. But, come on, folks, what’s with the drama? Shakesville isn’t perfect. Often, it posts really silly articles. But stalinist? Do you know how offensive it is to people who actually know what Stalinism is?

It’s the same kind of needless demonization of inoffensive little things that bug us that makes some people use “Nazi” or “fascist” in the sense of “mean, annoying person.”

I remember when an unhinged reader left a comment on my blog telling me that I was “the epitome of everything that is wrong in the world” and “an embarrassment to humanity.” There is a strong possibility it was the same weird person who is now looking for proof that Shakesville is Stalinist.

Let’s feel free to disagree with any blog out there or down here. But let’s try to keep Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot out of it. No matter how much you dislike a blogger, s/he is not a genocidal dictator.

Cannibalizing Motherhood

There are mothers who are not content with cannibalizing their child’s personal space, romantic life, thoughts and soul. They signal their intention to devour the kid’s existence by. . . eating the placenta.

Fellow blogger Nominatissima pointed me to a practice called “placenta encapsulation.” I Googled it and immediately found a website of a midwife (who else?), telling women “You take care of your baby – I’ll take care of the placenta.”

Placentophagy, or consumption of the placenta, has been reported for decades to help stop the baby blues and diminish postpartum fatigue.  Some women have cooked the placenta in a stew, mixed it into a smoothie, or even taken it raw to tap into its powerful effects.  For many who feel squeamish about this or want to reap the benefits of placenta for more than just a day or two, there is another option: encapsulation.  Powdered placenta has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries.

Eating the placenta is supposed to reduce post-partum depression. I guess there is some kind of a weird logic to the entire thing. As you eat the placenta, you can imagine all the ways in which you will consume the child. You can dress it like a little billboard for your political beliefs. You can show it off to friends and relatives and use it to compete with them. You can drag it to baby pageants. You can use it as an excuse for not working or not having a personal life of your own. You can go through its pockets, backpack, computer, etc. You can police its every thought and action. So what is there to be depressed about when there is still so much fun to be had out of the kid?

In Need of Translation-Related Help

So in the novel I’m translating, a future mother-in-law tells her daughter’s suitor (of whom she doesn’t approve) that his face looks like this:

This is an unpleasant gesture in our culture, and comparing one’s face to it is not flattering.

The problem is I don’t know how to translate it into English. If you wanted to compare a person’s face with something bad to put them down, how would you do that? In a way that would be easily understandable to English-speakers? It has to be unpleasant, but not extremely offensive.

I just translated a poem by a Russian poet Benediktov as part of this translation project, which was a feat in itself.  So now I need help with the ugly face comment because there is a limit even to my inventiveness.

Who Are the Bad Guys?

In my course on Hispanic Civlization, I was talking about the horrors of the Inquisition.

“Why do the Christians always come off like the bad guys?” one student asked giving me an accusatory stare.

I didn’t want to tell her that we still had the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas in the name of the spread of Christianity ahead of us in the course.

And the ruin that religious fanaticism brought to the Spanish-speaking world during the years of the Empire.

And the way the Church constantly undermined the struggle for progress and the attempts to create a democratic society in Spain in the XIXth and early XXth centuries.

And the fascist Catholic dictatorship that existed in Spain between 1939 and 1975.

I have no desire to hurt the sensibilities of my Bible Belt students who have spent their lives in places where religion is the only form of entertainment and community organizing. But what can I do if history is the way it is?

Christians Disrespect Soldiers’ Funerals

The worst thing that ever happened to Christianity are the actual Christians.

A battle is currently going on where people who claim to be Christians try to force Christian prayers on the bereaved families of soldiers. These pseudo-Christians believe they have the right to do so even in those cases where the deceased in question were not Christian and their families expressed no desire for being bugged by Christians during the funeral of their loved one:

In Texas, three Christian military organizations — Veterans of Foreign Wars District 4, the American Legion Post 586, and the National Memorial Ladies — have filed suit against the VA because the Veterans’ Administration doesn’t include Christian prayers in vets’ funerals unless the deceased and/or the family request it. They are claiming that Christianity and Christians are being discriminated against when Christianity isn’t inserted into every funeral, whether the family wants it or not.

For some unfathomable reason, these folks identify as Christians even though it is crystal clear they have never even been in the vicinity of the Bible. As we all know, Jesus was opposed to public prayer and ridiculed those who believed that repeating a prayer ad nauseam would have some beneficial effect. As for forcing others into being exposed to your praying against their will – poor Jesus would have had a heart attack if anybody suggested that his ideas could be used to perpetrate this kind of atrocity upon people in pain.

These so-called religious folks don’t give a rat’s little tushie for religion or for the fallen soldiers as you can see from the comments made by one of these quasi-Christians:

[Nobleton] Jones said he has presented shell casings from the gun salute to veterans’ grieving family members at funerals in Houston National Cemetery for the past three years.

But after a burial ceremony May 16, Jones said a government official told him he could no longer recite the words he always says when he hands over the shells: “We ask that God grant you and your family grace, mercy and peace.”

The 66-year-old Houstonian said he felt belittled. “That makes me feel smaller, even after I spent my time in the military, fighting so that people should be able to say that,” he said.

This guy comes to a burial where family members of a dead person are saying good bye to somebody they love. And all he can think of is his freaky self-esteem issues? Who cares whether you feel smaller or bigger or fatter or thinner or hairier or balder at somebody’s funeral? Funerals do not take place so that some Stewart Little gets a chance to engage in self-aggrandizement. They exist so that families and friends can mourn their loss in peace. Without some creepazoid self-righteously sticking their unwanted religious beliefs under their noses.
Of all the people to exploit ideologically, people at a funeral seem like a really bad target. What next, walking around the mourners and sticking your business card under their noses? Seriously, how low can people sink?

On Questions from the Political Compass

Of course, as many people pointed out, the Political Compass test is more serious than the political quiz I posted yesterday. Still, look at the statements from the first set:

I’d always support my country, whether it was right or wrong.

No one chooses his or her country of birth, so it’s foolish to be proud of it.

Our race has many superior qualities, compared with other races.

These questions are very outdated, in my view. Wouldn’t everybody answer them pretty much the same nowadays? At least, among people who are literate enough to want to take the political compass test?

There is, however, a statement there that I didn’t even understand. It’s this one:

There is now a worrying fusion of information and entertainment.

What is this supposed to mean? What are the responses to this supposed to be indicative of? Has anybody figured it out?

Dear Student!

If the only questions you ask during the first day of class are “What is the attendance policy?” and “Will we be penalized if we have many absences?”, then it’s kind of difficult not to laugh when you send me emails as to the horrible, totally unexpected chain of events that is preventing you from coming to class for the third week in a row.

Labor Day Quiz

Have a great Labor Day, everybody! To celebrate this important day, I created a little quiz to test our knowledge of important statements from famous people. Of course, anybody can easily find answers through a search engine, but what would be the fun of that? I will add the answers as people supply them.

                                           Who said the following?

1. “Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men.” John Adams.

2. “Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” Abraham Lincoln.

3. “The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us.” Teddy Roosevelt.

4. “Recession is when a neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours.” Harry S. Truman.

5. “All the property that is necessary to a Man, for the conservation of the individual and the propagation of the species, is his natural right, which none can justly deprive him of: but all property superfluous to such purposes is the property of the public, who, by their laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the welfare of the public shall demand such disposition.” My sentimental favorite Benjamin Franklin.

6. “Democracy is the road to socialism.” Karl Marx.

7. “Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.” Ayn Rand.

Can you guess which of these quotes is my favorite one?

What’s your favorite month? Why?

WordPress offered me a prompt for this blogging topic. When I started thinking about the answer, I realized that there are reasons to like all the months in the year.

January – is the month when I’m getting used to all my great New Year’s gifts.

February – usually brings snow even in this snow-deprived area. And whenever there is snow, I’m happy by default.

March – with any luck, it’ still pretty cold, which is good. Spring break is in March and I always get to travel. Next March, I will probably even get as far as Europe.

April – the month when I have my birthday.

May – the academic year ends and 4-month-long spring holidays begin.

June – a month of summer freedom from all obligations except those I impose on myself.

July – another month of summer freedom.

August – a new academic year begins, which is always a very happy time.

September – we finally start getting cooler nights and, if we are very lucky, even the first yellow leaves might start appearing.

October – the real Fall comes by and I can wear my favorite clothes ever because all the best clothes are of the autumn kind.

November – there is a lot of rain, and what can be better than rain?

December – snow is even better than rain! Besides, this is the month when I scour the world for the best New Year’s gifts and recipes.

What’s your favorite month?