A serious question for all you readers . . .

We’re maxed out on features at the moment, but I have a couple of ideas for occasional posts I want to run by you. I haven’t put my history and international law geekery on display up to this point. I could do that if people showed an interest in reading such posts, though. So here are two ideas:

1. Historical moments as campfire stories. I’ve not studied history, but I’ve read tons of it. I know about lots of historical incidents. The idea of this post would be to write a short post straight out of my head that tells a story, and try to make it  either suspenseful or funny. I’d publish with the disclaimer that you might want to verify the facts, because I’m telling a campfire story. I’m thinking about things like The Second Defenestration of Prague, a brief history of Rock and Roll, and Andrew Jackson’s hi-jinks in New Orleans in 1814.

2.  I have studied international law. I’ve briefed famous cases and written a master’s thesis on the development of international human rights treaties. I have a thick notebook that explains the history of international organization from 1648 to 2005. I’ve got so much international law stuff, I discussed building a twice-a-month international law blog with a friend when I first started blogging just to put it out there. Sadly, we both ended up having too much to do, and never got back to that conversation. I could write all kind of short, plain-language international law posts. I could explain things like just war theory, preemptive military action, how international treaties work, etc. in non-academic language.

If either of those interests you, let me know. Neither will ever turn into a weekly feature unless they become insanely popular, but both are things I’d enjoy writing about once or twice a month.

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Wordless Wednesday 9

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Yes, words matter.

Gretchen at Drifting Through has an awesome post today, This Discrimination is Still OK, which I encourage you to read. She discusses the shaming of poor people and what it means to live in deep poverty, with an emphasis on how it affects children. She begins by introducing shaming, then talks about some egregious things a couple of politicians have said about poor people and a response to one of them in Salon. Then we get this:

The things people say when discussing the poor. They harken to Dickensian times. “Lazy. Victims. Takers.” These words are used to dehumanize an entire group of people. These words offer justification and comfort to those who wish to keep the poor exactly where they are. Poor people are fundamentally flawed, in character and morals. They don’t want to have better or to do better. They want a hand out or a hand up or a free ride. They enjoy this lifestyle. If they were motivated and ambitious and resourceful they wouldn’t be in this position. These are the statements that are repeated. They are hollow excuses for disdain. They are the rationalization for judgment. They are the lame attempts to lift oneself higher while stepping callously on the backs of those already crippled with exhaustion. They are the words of bullies.

In my opinion, that absolutely nails a big part of the problem. In a single paragraph we clearly see how derogatory labeling enables dehumanization and sets the stage for bullying. I’ve said this in other places, but never so succinctly. Language matters and here’s why. Language shapes our thoughts, and our thoughts inform our behavior. The next paragraph goes a step further and talks about the importance of empathy.

You know I don’t ask for shares outright, but I’ll say this. Gretchen’s post is one I’d really like to see passed around. 😉

This post really got me thinking, for two reasons:

  • Poverty is one of three social issues I identified months ago as both pressing enough to justify political commentary on a pop culture blog and something I have enough knowledge of to write about. It’s the only one of the three I haven’t gotten around to covering yet.
  • Gretchen’s post makes me think of our Feminist Friday discussions. Aside from a couple of obvious things like her use of shaming to talk about this, and that she’s talking about children while I’m racking my brain on early childhood education, I’m not sure why I feel the two issues are so strongly connected. I’m just working on intuition at this point, but I’ll figure it out.

And speaking of  Feminist Friday, I’ve been torn all week about whether to write the next education post or whether to talk about Feminism as a label again. There are advantages to either. Several people have said re-visiting the label is a good idea, because quite a few people have joined the discussion lately, and it keeps coming up. So I think I’ll do that this week.

Our very first discussion post, Is Feminism Still a Politically Useful Label? was published almost three months ago and we haven’t talked much about the label since. My goal for Friday is to build on that post rather than simply reiterate it in different language. Do stay tuned.

Villains Make the Best Heroes: Batman vs Lex Luthor

Happy new book day, everyone! I hope you are all doing well this week. I am quickly closing in on the six month mark on this column, and for this entry I decided to look forward instead of backward. The first true big event of DC’s New 52, Forever Evil by Geoff Johns and David Finch, recently wrapped up, and I believe it has been out long enough to talk a bit about it here. Be forewarned, though, that this post contains spoilers if you haven’t read Forever Evil #7.

Forever Evil has been quite a treat for me to read. Its tagline, “Evil is Relative,” plays well with my growing belief that villains make the best heroes, and that small evil actions can be committed for the sake of larger good ones. Criminality and disposition aside, you cannot argue with the effectiveness of the methodologies of such characters as Lex Luthor and Sinestro, two of the characters featured as defenders of the earth in Forever Evil.

Why, then, is Batman featured as the sole active hero in this team of villains? Though he is initially hesitant to work with Lex Luthor’s team, it can be argued that Batman functions better with them than he does with the Justice League. I can write entire posts (and have, and will again) about the things that differentiate Batman from his fellow heroes, from his lack of superpowers to his personality.

I have previously raised the question of whether or not Batman may even be in the right fictional universe, and I now pose a new question: is Batman a villain who decided to fight for justice rather than personal gain? As I’ve pointed out before, Frank Miller wrote Batman from the perspective that the darkness in Batman is greater than the light, but he makes this darkness work for the benefit of everyone around him. I believe this thought is worth meditating upon for awhile.

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