A Midsummer’s Ramble

It has been a long time since I have done a ramble. Due to the temper of the times, I tend to write a lot about politics and I know lots of persons interested in my other topics aka categories don’t really care about my political views. I do blog plenty on other topics but have a problem blogging consistently in certain categories the way I want e.g. Word of the Day begs to be written every day or its title changed to Word of the Whenever. Personal stuff could be more frequent just b/c people no doubt ask, “Just who is this nut?” I study languages constantly, every hour or, as they say now, 24/7 (see, I could blog on that, on how taken aback I was the first time I heard a person who wasn’t Black say that). I listen to music constantly. And I have experiences which fall into most of these categories, e.g. teaching – we have two active teachers in the family now.
But how to stay out of politics? Colbert King wrote a scathing review of Obama’s Dallas speech, basically exclaiming, “We are not so divided??? Where have you been, Mr. President?” In order to understand my stand with King, you have to know a bit about my personal history. In order to understand that, you have to know more about racism in America than you may. To understand that, you have to know something about the founding of this country. To understand that, you have to know something about European history and politics along with the history and economy of West Africa and the Americas before Columbus. Then you have to get real basic the way Fukuyama does and explore how people tend to clump together in units: families, clans, villages, tribes, city states, states, empires, and so on and pursue that all the way up through nationalism and the post-colonial world of today. And finally, as you are asking yourself why you don’t know more about all this stuff, we get back to education and its critics.
Exhausting, huh?
My nine day vacation was great and without incident – except for the dog with pancreatitis who ate a bag of our almonds. Two lovely (there’s a linguistic thing – lovely is a female word except homes can be described as lovely by men) homes we stayed in; a beautiful wedding we attended (the purpose of the trip); a great visit with my last living relative (whom I know personally); and lots of wine drunk and food eaten. Eight, I believe, Irishmen made the trip over from the Old Sod (don’t get to use that too often) – the groom is Irish. Besides two emotional visits with my 84 year old cousin Ted I had many mornings talking with the father of the bride, a friend of 60 years, back to our sophomore year of high school. His wife and my wife had a good time with the mistress of the house, one of the original AVID teachers in San Diego’s Claremont High School (she was the ESL teacher).
So, rested and refreshed, we came back to the killing fields. Dallas, and then the back stories from Baton Rouge and Minneapolis. Now more murders of policemen in Baton Rouge.
What is to become of the GOP? Hiding my glee at their confounding and upending is difficult, yet it is eerily similar to my misgivings when the Democrats went wild riding roughshod over old time pols of the Democratic Party in their zeal to correct old wrongs. Yes, I was thrilled in the 70s to see women and minorities take leadership positions, but what about the Party stalwarts whose hands were bloody with patriarchy and racism but yet had steered the Party through the New Deal and WW II? Now today, what about people who are just plain conservative, not nuts? Where do they go as Trump and his supporters destroy the Party? And what about Trump’s supporters? Where do they go once they get dumped on for destroying the Party? And what happens if Trump actually wins? My passport hasn’t expired, so I’ll be OK, but I’ll have to send money back from Mexico to my wife (just kidding, Honey).
The new mantra in our land seems to be: So many deserving targets and so few bullets. My wife pointed out something chilling: the very people who right now are screaming about protecting our law enforcement personnel were cheering on the militia members at the Bundy ranch who were putting law enforcement officers in the sights of their sniper scopes. Where was the outrage then?
Notice I am no longer putting the 20- before the year. We are far enough into the new millennium that I doubt anyone will think I mean 1916.
We are dealing with the Melania speech controversy (what controversy? Someone took the speech of a very good speaker, our First Lady, copied it, and gave it to Melania to read. She did a good job of that). Let’s see if Trump stays on script Thursday night. CNN had a panel with Ana Navarro, a very conservative Hispanic, who is not voting for Trump. When she pointed out to the Trump supporter on the panel that there were fewer Black delegates this year than ever before in the history of the modern GOP, his response is we should not be bean counters. How dense can you get? Does anyone not believe that the GOP needs to lose badly for these two reasons? One, it’d be good for the country to have a government led by Democrats and two, it will purge the GOP of its crazies, leaving about 2000 people in the Party to reconstruct it along actually conservative lines rather than along lines not drawn since about 1122. (Will anyone miss the Great Horned Beast?)
Today I met with my Urdu master for the first time in several months. He is in good shape and excited about getting back together to drink coffee, read and listen to my shaky Urdu, and talk politics. I was happy to find that my little device – which I spontaneously called in Urdu a tajviz and that turned out to be just the word: “scheme, plan” – of writing out sentences and then speaking them into a recorder and letting him listen to them and identify them on my papers, worked quite well. It puts a spring in my Urdu step (qadam) and my son was telling me just as my friend drove up that there is an Urdu speaking staff member at his school. Now I am in the space of seeing if I know individual words that pop into my word domain – like “scheme” – and carrying on conversations with myself or imaginary interlocutors.
Related to Urdu is something on culture I will write up for my blog under Culture – I bought a book on vacation on Urdu Mughal poets and the introduction by the late Annemarie Schimmel explicates the contrast between East and West in their treatment of literary production. This is another benefit of studying a language outside one’s culture area.
A bit of a reprieve here. I’ll get to my chores now that I’ve had my workout and my lunch. In the gym I saw my first butt-cheeks pair of shorts, the kind where the person (a girl in this case, fortunately) just stands there and the butt-cheeks are out. Thankfully, she was a very pretty young girl and was doing a hard workout, but I wonder how long it will be before people who should not expose their butt-cheeks begin doing so simply b/c it’s the fashion. Oh well.
During my lunch I watched some more of the GOP convention. This morning my friend opined that the brouhaha over Melania Trump’s speech was ridiculous. I disagree. I later forwarded to him a post from The Language Log in which they showed convincingly that the speech was lifted from M. Obama’s 2008 speech and the staffer responsible (?) fessed up today as well. Nevertheless, there was a link to another post in which skepticism is poured ever-so-lightly over just what plagiarism is. I’ll talk to my friend on Monday and see what he says.
I listened to a talk by a heavily credentialed legal scholar who declared Obama was “Lawless”, the title of his book. I listened closely but could find nothing that convinced me that there is a smoking gun; lots of it had to do with attitude rather than substantive violations. No mention was made of the fact that Obama has issued fewer executive orders than any other President. Is that still the case?
One of my correspondents believes that what we take as facts is determined by our world view. I prefer to think that facts determine my world view. At any rate, I am perfectly capable of flights of fancy. Here’s one of my fancies: anytime a President issues even one executive order someone doesn’t like, that someone declares this President is imposing tyranny on us. Further, much further, I believe firmly that the outrage over Obama issuing executive orders goes back to the Code of the South where no Black man should have anything to say to a White man and furthermore, no White man should ever be subject to command, orders, direction or even influence of a Black man.
Such a laughable notion that this country is post-racial, that “only a trace of bigotry remains” (-Reagan), that we’ve made so much progress. All you have to do is read the comments section following any article, column, or blog entry dealing with anyone with anything to do with a minority group. Recently, a silly movie found itself in the crosshairs of the Breitbart crew, a Leslie Jones, who plays a major role in the remake of Ghostbusters. Why do we even bother to question whether a conservative blog or website or twitter account or magazine is going to have a hard time with anyone who isn’t White? They do. That’s what makes them conservatives. The believe that their ethnicity puts them on top of the world and anything that might pinprick that fantasy, like becoming President of the United States, has to be taken down. So on the Right, it’s lies, lies, lies. Let’s tune in to the Republican Convention to hear more. (my wife is boycotting them now, preferring to watch reruns).
—- continued this evening late. GOP convention falls apart and Fox News’ Roger Ailes is gone under what they would call a barrage of political correctness; after all, what’s wrong with a big executive type pressuring female underlings for a little sex? It’s just part of being an alpha male, a real macho guy. As Bill Maher said tonight, we all hope Roger’s next prospective employer is as repulsive-looking as he is and demands a bj for the job. Fine justice. On the same front, James Murdoch is said by the NYT to have a political pov different from his father’s and if he takes over, we might see a responsible outlet for conservative opinion and news with a conservative slant. That would be good for the country.
Washing the dishes, I resumed watching David Denby discussing his trial at teaching high school English. He is know for his taking a year off to take a course in The Great Books and writing his own book about his experience. What struck me was how trite his recommendations to teachers were: break up the routine and let the students speak, or something like that. Isn’t that what the major criticism of teachers comes down to, that they routinize everything and squeeze all the juice out of the learning experience? However, he went on to cite the challenges faced by teachers in inner-city schools he visited in trying to spark a sense of relevance in the students whose lives needed enrichment by money, not by poetry, or so it seems to them.
Several major milestones in the summer have passed: my wife’s surgery, my son’s job acquisition, and the National Conventions. I thought the trip to California for the wedding would put an end to the stress, but not so. A bright spot is I am now picking my new little freshman granddauther up from high school most afternoons. Also, I’m able to read quite a bit (see my Category on What I’m Reading Now) and my Urdu is swinging right along. Interestingly, I find my vocabulary is quite good but sentences are not always clear in their meaning to me, the opposite of what I usually encounter with a language I don’t know all that well. It probably has to do with the fact that the idiomaticity of Urdu is removed from Western European or even Eastern European languages.
As I digest the conventions, I will blog on politics, but I want to blog daily (really tough to do) and across a broader range of categories. Let’s see how I do.

7/30/16 Quick addition: my wife’s surgery went well and she is recovering. When Mr. and Mrs. Khan addressed the DNC, he used the word “suitable” and I thought: “mwnasab in Urdu”. I checked and I was right. Makes studying languages my refuge.

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