Archive for January 2011
I couldn’t believe it: the New York Times is touting this “new” fashion craze sweeping Japan.
Because I’ve seen it before. In Canada. Suburban Burlington, Ontario, to be exact.
My son had colour changing light up blinky doo-dads waaay back in 2005.
I’m not sure where they originated, exactly, they were a gift from one of his cool aunts, if memory serves. Who’d have thought Burlington would be a world fashion leader?
Guess it never occurred to the NYT to look north of the 49th.
Parents protect their children. As a parent, I censored what my child was exposed to.
I protected my child from the information or reality that he was not able to handle.
He was probably in the first grade the first time he saw the classic movie
“A Christmas Story.”
Naturally, it made him desperate to know what Ralphie’s “F-word” was.
Once known, this word of power might be used inappropriately.
At school, say.
Or at Grandma’s… She would be horrified.
And when Grandma asks where he learned this word, he would have to say:
“Mommy taught me that word”
I don’t think so.
he just wants to know.
He will not use it inappropriately. In fact, he promises faithfully never to say it, if only I tell him.
Was he mature enough to abide by this agreement?
My greater life experience inclined me toward disbelief.
So I told him the word was
Having just vowed to ‘never’ use the word,
naturally the first thing out of his mouth was “Frankenweenie.”
So there was some vindication in my decision to censor.
(He did, of course, learn how to both say and spell the actual “F word” when it was spray painted on the wall of his elementary school a year later.
Only then was it safe to show him the Tim Burton classic Frankenweenie film.)
But as a parent, there were things I knew would disturb him. Being in tune with my child, I was uniquely positioned to have a good idea what protection was necessary. For instance, in the early years, good guys could never die. As he grew and learned acquired the ability to protect himself, the terms of censorship changed. Before he was 18 he had acquired enough maturity that external parental censorship was no longer necessary.
Of course I never did show him Old Yeller, a film that traumatized me as a child. Just seeing a commercial for it makes me burst into tears to this day.
rewriting history is a bad idea
Although there is a time to protect children, I thoroughly disagree with the practice of rewriting literature to “protect” children.
The portrayal of the Jewish moneylender Shylock caused offense to a great many forward thinking people. In an era of political correctness many schools banned the play from the curriculum.
The “N-word” caused the same fate for Huckleberry Finn. Even worse, liberal minded people thought a reasonable compromise was to change the text. Rewrite it to make it ‘suitable’ for children.
One of the great philosophers who influenced my adolescence was Lazarus Long. To this day it doesn’t matter to me that he was a fictional character.
A generation which ignores history has no past: and no future. “
Rewiting history doesn’t change what has come before. It merely serves to prevent any possibility of learning from the mistakes of the past. Personally, I have always learned best from my mistakes. I was horrified to hear that revisionism was extending to Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. Seems everything that was a ‘bad influence’ was redacted. Look around. Has the world become a better place for it? I don’t think so.
Personally I never much liked Tom Sawyer. Sorry folks, I think Tom was a creep. He’s dishonest, venal, manipulative. Even his friends can’t trust the guy.
Now, Huck Finn, there’s a character I can get behind. I admired Huck. Maybe because he came from nothing, he is one of the least judgemental characters in literature. Certainly one of the most egalitarian. Yet some people wanted to remove the N-word from the world. How can you teach a book that uses the N-word to impressionable children?
Easy. You TEACH children. You talk about it.
What a wonderful opportunity to talk about what people said and did back then.
Removing the “N-word” is a small obscenity in a book that includes a big obscenity called slavery. Contrast that with the good in the book. A central part of the story is the incredible friendship between Huckleberry Finn and his friend Jim. That was unheard if in the day. Huckleberry Finn is a wonderful book capable of engaging empathy, and changing the way people think. Watering it down into a politically correct revision helps no one. Teaches nothing.
A Merchant of Venice
A smash hit at a time when Jews were prohibited from full citizenship in Elizabethan England.
Religion permeated the laws of the land at that time. Usury was illegal for Christians… that meant Christians could not charge interest on loans. The net result was that Christians with money were singularly unwilling to loan money to strangers for business start-ups or investments. This was particularly rough on the economy.
Although prevented from holding many jobs or owning land, Jews were legally allowed to lend money. Charging interest was one of the few sources of legitimate income available to a Jew in England in Shakespeare’s day.
Looked at in the context of the times, it is incredible that Shakespeare was able to write and produce a play in which a Jew could hold such an important part.
Certainly in some ways Shylock is a caricature, but everything he does and says is perfectly understandable in the historical context.
Even more importantly, he delivers some of the most powerful dialogue ever to address the issue of racism:
If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh?
if you poison us, do we not die? “
–Shylock, William Shakespeare’s A Merchant of Venice
Shylock made Jews real. You might not like him, but there is no question of his humanity. And although Shylock is the villain of the piece, his daughter Jessica is also a Jew. Of course Jessica is quite ready to throw away her heritage to be accepted in the wider world in which she lives. Just like any normal girl.
What an amazing window into history. What an incredible opportunity to discuss perception, religion, race and even human rights. What better place to deal with it but within the education system. Banning “A Merchant of Venice” teaches that it’s best to sweep what we don’t like under the carpet.
That doesn’t address problems, or overcome them. When we bury a social problem like racism, we just drive it underground.
When that happens, it is almost inevitable that it will gather force in the dark, and come back as a more resistant strain.
We need to look racism in the eye and say “that’s wrong.”
If we don’t, it grows and spreads.
How has the world changed since Martin Luther King Jr.‘s day?
I suspect Dr. King would not be happy to see so many citizen protections that existed even before his Civil Rights movement have been curtailed. I kind of think Dr. King would prefer to see a little more citizen protection. I can’t imagine he would be glad to see the erosion of civil rights he fought for.
Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
- George Santayana, eire.com: QUOTES ABOUT HISTORY
Image credit: Fair use of black & white publicity Frankenweenie still portrait of named title character from the early Tim Burton short film.
A.F. Bradley’s 1909 Photograph of Mark Twain, internationally available in the public domain, downloaded from WikiMedia Commons.
From Wikipedia Public Domain engraving of William Shakespeare, Title page of the First Folio, by William Shakespeare, with copper engraving of the author by Martin Droeshout. Image courtesy of the Elizabeth Club and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University.
Project Gutenberg’s preservation of the Public Domain work Huckleberry Finn provided this E.W. Kemble frontispiece illustration of Huck from 1884
In my initial outrage about the death threat domain names, The other day I dented:
“Corporations aren’t human; if they were, the word would be “Sociopath” as in @GoDaddy is a sociopathic corporation”
Well, seems I was right the first time.
As promised, here’s the email response from GoDaddy, verbatim:
Dear Laurel L. Russwurm,
The domain killassange.com is directing to the IP of 184.108.40.206, which is not an IP allocated to Go Daddy. According to an IP whois it is allocated to Hoosier PC SBC. Go Daddy is not hosting the content. We have neither access to, nor jurisdiction over the content on this site. The web hosting provider for this website is the company responsible for policing any content that appears on this site.
There is no content currenlty resolving on the domains killjulianassange.com and julianassangemustdie.com.
As your complaint addresses the issue of wording of the domain name itself, we are unable to take action at this time. The complaint either needs to be taken up with the domain name owner directly, or should be filed in a UDRP or court proceeding.
If you find that you are unable to contact the registrant because the contact information given in the Whois database is invalid, please write to email@example.com and let us know.
Spam and Abuse Department
GoDaddy is off the hook for killassange.com because it isn’t one of theirs.
And without content, julianassangemustdie.com could argued to be ambiguous; after all, barring immortality, we all must die sooner or later.
But there is no ambiguity about:
‘Kill Julian Assange’ is a three word grouping that is short, sharp and to the point.
Whatever anyone thinks of the man, Julian Assange is a real person.
A human being.
Prefacing the proper name of a real person with the verb “kill” is most certainly a death threat.
Or at the least, a directive.
Of course, I am not a lawyer. And as a Canadian, I’m not sure if death threats are protected by free speech or qualify as a crime south of the border.
GoDaddy thinks it isn’t an issue.
Does that mean GoDaddy would issue a killpresidentobama.com or a killsarahpalin.com domain name?
There are a whole lot of things to be talked about arising from the tragic events of last weekend. But the thing that cut me most to the quick is the death of that little nine year old child. Probably because I’m a mother. Not so long ago my precious child was nine.
The thought of losing a child is the most terrible fear a parent has. My heart breaks for Christina Taylor Green, and I grieve with her family.
So the whole business of the funeral protest– the very idea of protesting at a funeral is incredible to me. I’ve not heard of any such thing in Canada, although it may happen here, too, for all I know.
Needless to say I was surprised and pleased when I heard Arizona passed a special law outlawing protest near funerals. That helped a little.
Yet the controversy rages still.
Many people are upset because they think it is censorship.
But it’s not. This is a private matter. Privately, parents have the right to decide what their children see, hear and read. Because it is private.
Publicly, parents do not have the power to decide this for others. That would be censorship.
Now, I do think it’s important for people to participate in society. I think it’s important for people to try and effect the changes we think will improve the world. Which is a very powerful reason why I support WikiLeaks. But WikiLeaks has a storm or protest swirling around it too, and for similar reasons.
It all boils down to one thing.
the difference between public and private
Many people say WikiLeaks is bad because it makes private things public. But I disagree.
WikiLeaks has not sought to make private things public. In fact, over and over again, WikiLeaks has indicated that they support individual privacy.
What politicians say and do in their line of work may be concealed, or secret, but they are public employees engaged in work for their government.
Governments are not human beings, they are public institutions. There can be no privacy there, because privacy is a human right.
Politicians are public servants. That makes them accountable to the public. What they do on their own time is private— as long as it does not impact on their work.
When anyone takes any job, they are accountable to their employer. If sales clerk steals from her employer, she can’t claim privacy as a shield. If a minister absconds with the church bank account, he can’t claim privacy as a shield either.
why peaceful protest?
The point of peaceful protest is to effect public change.
It is appropriate to protest bad government decisions on the steps of the government buildings, because it draws the attention of both the government and the public. Public pressure can then be applied to the issue and government (in a democracy, anyway) will listen to the citizens and act in the public good. Or in a non-democratic nation the government will arrest and carry the peaceful protesters off to jail to suppress dissent, and then perhaps the neighboring democratic countries will protest, and thus effect change.
It is appropriate to protest bad corporate policy in the street outside the business, making it difficult for employees and customers to get in or out to do business with the corporation. Since corporations are artificial constructs incapable of human ethics, they can only be influenced solely by the bottom line.
Corporations and government both operate in the public sphere, and the greater public does indeed have a stake and should have a voice in what they do. Change can sometimes be effected this way.
But a funeral is not a public thing.
Funerals may appear to be public because they occur in public venues and can travel on public thoroughfares.
But a funeral is a private thing.
A funeral is part of a private human practice that has grown up out of the universal human grief process.
Funerals exist to allow people an opportunity to cope with and live through their personal grief. The proceedings and ceremony often spread into the wider community to allow other human beings to provide their personal support. People share their personal feelings and support each other. So although a funeral may have the appearance of a public event, in reality it is a private part of the healing of the survivors.I have attended many funerals in my life. Some for aged relatives whose passing was expected, others not.
I’ve supported people I care about and attended funerals for people I didn’t know well.
Last year I attended the most difficult funeral I’ve yet had to attend. It wasn’t unexpected, but it was devastating nonetheless. I still can barely think about the loss of my older sister, Lynda, who had such a great influence on me.
This loss has scarred my soul and will never entirely heal. But the funeral helped me to wrap the personal loss in a special place in my heart, and to take comfort from friends and family and the extended community. Inclusion of the human community in the grieving process does not negate the fact that it is a private thing. The human privacy of a funeral expands to include all the humans so affected.
The only appropriate demonstration for a funeral is the demonstration of grief as part of the human healing process.
When you protest near a government, you do so to tell the government to hear your idea, and hopefully change. When you protest near a corporation you tell the people who set its policy it is on notice. But what are you protesting at a funeral?
The people attending a funeral are too enmeshed in grief to be able to hear ideas. Protest will interfere with their grieving process, and thus inflict harm on them. Which is wholly inappropriate.
The most that will be accomplished would be to make the funeral attendees forever an enemy of the ideas of the cause the protest espouses. Which is wholly ineffective. Exploiting the grief of the mourners at a funeral is, at best, in bad taste. It is certainly not a place for public protest.
Sometimes, there are important points that need to be made in public about death. Sometimes we need to publicly talk about issues and ideas surrounding a death. But still, the funeral is not the place.
No nine year old child should ever die like this.
Christina Taylor Green’s life has been ripped away from her. Her family and community will be devastated by the loss of this beautiful nine year old child. They need the opportunity to grieve in peace.
There is nothing stopping protesters from holding their own public memorial service, or rally. Then it would be an appropriate public thing.
Protesting at a private funeral can only further harm the people who are already harmed, exploiting the tragedy. Some people seek to do that. Even though it harms the public good.
Human society allows government the facility to enact laws so that it can support the public good. And sometimes it happens that governments do just that.
This is one of those times. Bravo Arizona.
emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, 11 January, 2011
I was very disturbed to discover some very offensive death threat domain names that are in currently in use through your service.
is hosted by
I’ve also been told the same is true for
I want very much to see these terrible websites to be removed.
Please let me know the outcome of this terrible situation as soon as possible.
Laurel L. Russwurm
[Thanks @jwildeboer & @evgenymorozov]
The disturbed young woman who registered the julianassangemustdie.com domain name is Melissa Clouthier (@MelissaTweets) acording to her Twitter Profile:
Frazzled mom, alternative health doc, conservative libertarian blogger, columnist, podcaster, radio host, iPhone & Mac lover, fantasy reading geek, #TCOT”
As a mother myself, I have difficulty understanding a mind set that would allow a mother to advocate killing anyone. Is this not also a criminal offense?
Is this woman a socipath? Or is it that she just lacks any shred of empathy?
Or perhaps Ms. Clouthier lacks the imagination to realize that Julian Assange has a mother too?
Sadly, it’s beginning to look as thought there’s a whole culture that thinks advocating the assassination of people who disagree with you acceptable.
Incredibly, the most bizarre thing is that @MelissaTweets believes herself to be a “libertarian”.
Libertarianism is the advocacy of individual liberty, especially freedom of thought and action. Philosopher Roderick T. Long defines libertarianism as “any political position that advocates a radical redistribution of power [either "total or merely substantial"] from the coercive state to voluntary associations of free individuals”, whether “voluntary association” takes the form of the free market or of communal co-operatives. David Boaz, libertarian writer and vice president of the Cato Institute, writes that, “Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others” and that, “Libertarians defend each person’s right to life, liberty, and property–rights that people have naturally, before governments are created.”