Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Beware the Pillar of the Community

I never liked Bill Cosby, even before women started bringing accusations against him. There was something unbearably proper about the man, probably at the very height of the years when he was ruining so many lives.

Those of you who don't live near Philadelphia might have been spared some of the worst of Bill Cosby, pillar of the community. As Temple University's most visible graduate, he often went there to speak. (In fact, that's how he finally got nabbed -- by a Temple employee.) Cosby would orate at length about his fellow African Americans' saggy pants and grammatical usage, taking them to task and exhorting them to be more white. At the time I remember thinking, "Who died and made you God?"

There's probably not one single African American male who heard those unseemly lectures who has behaved as badly as Bill Cosby. Alex, I'll take saggy pants for the win.

Pillars of the community -- especially if they're wealthy -- are never ever to be trusted. The more they set themselves up as superior individuals, the less you should believe it. I'm not cynical. I'm old. I've seen too many pillars (including members of my own family) who have had dark, hidden corners that didn't bear scrutiny.

Now this guy, granted, he's no Bill Cosby. There aren't 60 women accusing him of drugging them and raping them in their helplessness. But make no mistake, this man is a pillar of the community. He is not to be trusted as far as you could throw a bull by the tail.

This man has a dark past that is almost lost to time. He was a rich, privileged prep school boy with a spotless record of sports and community service, good grades, and lawful behavior. He also drank like a fish. The evidence is all there. People might not have seen him attack women, but they sure saw him drunk.

I am entitled to my opinion, and it is this. If you see a rich, white prep school kid who seems perfect, trust me he is acting out by drinking to blindness and behaving like Mr. Hyde. He might (might) have qualms in the morning, if he even remembers ... but probably not.

When I heard that this guy coaches his little daughters' basketball team and has the signatures of scores of women who worked for him, a big red Bill Cosby flag went up in my mind. Beware the pillar of the community. The higher he flies, the more monstrous his behavior might be.

Bill Cosby got what was coming to him. (Actually I think his sentence is remarkably lenient.) Soon we will see if this other beast will get his as well. I say "beast" because we know so little about this man. The Republicans have hidden his record as a member of the Bush administration, thousands and thousands of documents. But even if we had them, who can support this pillar of the community? He doesn't even want his own daughters to be able to chart the courses of their bodies and their lives. How can we be sure of that? Our horrible president promised to seat Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. And gosh, what else has the Orange Menace accomplished? He's gotta throw some scrum to his base.

If the evil Republican oligarch puppets do succeed in seating Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, I hope it galvanizes women everywhere. Everywhere. We've had enough of these pillars and their perfection. They shouldn't fool anyone.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

My Dinner with Persephone

Hello, and welcome to The Gods Are Bored! What did you do today? I stripped wallpaper! I know, right?  Contain your jealousy, reader. It's unseemly.

I've gotta say I'm very surprised to have a dinner guest tonight. I would have thought she'd be home with her husband. But please give a warm and wonderful welcome to Persephone, Queen of Hades!

Anne: Persephone! This is ... unexpected. Yesterday was Equinox, and I thought...

Persephone: Maybe you've noticed, the seasons change slower than they used to.

Anne: But I would have thought your calendar was more dependent upon the hours of sunlight than the temperature of the atmosphere. Anyway, come on in! Mr. J is making spaghetti.

Persephone: Zounds! What happened in your living room?

Anne: Well, I got the first layer of wallpaper off, and now I'm starting on the underside, which is easier, but it all takes so much time...

Persephone: You need help?

Anne: Aren't you due down in Hell?

Persephone: That's just it, Anne. I'm tired of being due. I'm tired of being bossed around by my mother, and I'm tired of being at the beck and call of my husband. Where do I have a say in all this?

Anne: Indeed you have a clear-cut case for #MeToo. But I thought you actually loved Hades.

Persephone: He can be very cold, Anne. And he thinks he's better than me. Okay, he's a god and all that, but a girl has feelings, you know?

Anne: Well then, stay here with your mom! You should see how she decks things out in the fall.

Persephone: Nope. No can do. For the past two hundred years she's been getting more and more feverish. Her temper is a force of nature. She's crabby all the time.

Anne: (aside) "Crabby" is not an adjective I would ever attach to a deity. But that's just me. (to Persephone) To be honest, your majesty, I am a real believer in free will. It does seem to me that you get shuttled back and forth with little say in the matter.

Persephone: Exactly.

Anne: So what do you propose to do?

Persephone: You have several spare bedrooms now ... and your Gamma cat is such a fluffy sweetheart ...

Anne: And I am totally cool with putting you up for as long as you like, so long as your spouse doesn't ... how shall I say this?  Take me to task for it?

Persephone: I don't know what he'll do. I've never stood up to him before.

Anne: Can you appreciate that this puts me in a bit of a spot, considering I'm a mortal?

Persephone: This old sofa of yours needs all new upholstery. I'd love to take a crack at it.

Anne: Sorely, sorely tempting! And you don't even have to bribe me, Seph. I can feel your pain. Dragged off to be married, then tricked into eating one seed so you'd have to stay, then having to deal with your mom's moods...

Persephone: I know that Cloacina stayed here with you awhile. And Walt Whitman too.

Anne: Walt only spent the night. He has a house in Camden. I have to ask, though: What happens to the climate if you hang out here at my place in Snobville? Won't your mom just keep the summer sun beaming down until we all bake like biscuits?

Persephone: We don't have to tell her I'm here. Or him either.

Anne: Oh, sheesh! For the love of fruit flies! You're going to have Mother Nature and the God of Death on the search, and they'll wind up in my living room?

Persephone: Damn. Yeah, you're right. But what am I to do? I'm sick and tired of both of them.

Anne: I can dig it. Nothing worse than thwarted potential. Here's an idea: Cloacina is down in the Carolinas, frantically trying to keep waterways free of poisons and harmful bacteria. I'm sure she could use some help. It's chaotic down there right now, so Hades would have a heck of a time chasing you down.

Persephone: I would like to do something useful.

Anne: Well then, that's my recommendation. What do you think?

Persephone: I like it!

Anne: And you wouldn't have to leave until morning. Dinner's almost ready! And the guest room is the only clean place in the house.

Persephone: Thanks, Anne! We can braid some trim for your upholstery, talk a little politics ...

Anne: No politics for me, Seph. When I say, "You do you, Persephone," that pretty much sums up my entire political philosophy. Say, is that a new tattoo?

Persephone: You like it? I designed it myself.

Friday, September 07, 2018

The Conservatives in Camden

Well, well, well! Another September, another year of teaching school! If you worked in the profession, you'll know that your administration waits until you are comfortable at your grade level and period length, and then they will change it up on you and make it baffling again

My classroom has no air conditioning. We had two heat advisory days this week. We got to leave early yesterday -- 12:45. That's not so early. I was so overheated I was dizzy driving home.

But enough whining! Pity party over.

I have one class of sophomores this year. I haven't had sophomores in the past four years. (see above re changing things up) There's a whole new curriculum for sophomores. I'll look at it next week. I have plenty of time, since I have to give a standardized test between now and then.

Today, having five minutes left in class with my sophomores, I asked them the question: What isn't fair? I started listing their gripes so they could see them on the screen.

Of course they began bitching about the uniform policy right away, and the school rules in general.

Then a student of color said, "Taxes aren't fair."

I said, "What do you mean?"

He said, "I think there should just be one percentage for everyone. If a person makes $5 million, they are already contributing more taxes than someone making $50,000. They shouldn't have to pay a lot more."

I said, "So you don't think the rich should be taxed at a higher rate than the middle class?"

And he said, "Nope. Think about it. They worked hard to get that money. They should get to keep it."

I said, "Well, that makes you a conservative."

Then a few other students challenged him. One girl said, "But the rich have it to spend. They should give back more! People need help!"

So I said, "Does anyone else in here agree with what she said?" A few hands went up. "You guys are liberals," I told them.

In the end, it shook out at about 50-50. These are teenagers, espousing personal opinions that might be coming from their homes and might be coming from their own thinking. Either way, there are fiscal conservatives in Camden, New Jersey.

Stupid Republicans. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

All the time and energy they spend gerrymandering, and vote-suppressing, and spreading their racism thick, like peanut butter on a sturdy slice of bread ... they could actually receive legitimate votes from minority voters who are fiscal conservatives. And don't even get me started on the social issues! I'll bet I don't have a single student who believes in a woman's right to choose. Well, maybe a few. But not many.

And yet, if I said to my conservative student of color, "Would you vote for Donald Trump? Would you vote Republican?" he would fall out of his chair. I can answer for him. Never in a million years.

I'm no sociologist, but I see this all the time. I would say that at least one in three, maybe more, of my students would test as conservative and vote that way, if not for the sickening racism on display in the Republican party.

But that racism cancels out everything else. Thank all the Gods and Goddesses of all the pantheons, now and forever.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Labor Day 2018

If you  know me at all, you know that I am passionate about unions. I wish there was a bored god of unionized labor forces -- I would make that deity dinner every night of the week, and pie on weekends! What this world really needs is a God or Goddess of Collective Bargaining.

It has been 10 years since I marched in the Philadelphia Labor Day Parade. I wasn't even sure they had it anymore. I kept Googling it, and I never saw any plans for this year. Then last week, about mid-week, I got an email from the AFL-CIO, asking me to march in a parade near me! Well, gee whiz. You don't even have to ask! Let me lace up my sneakers!

I sent my RSVP to Philadelphia and showed up this morning at the Sheet Metal Workers hall on Columbus Boulevard, wearing a gray "NJEA Proud" t-shirt I got last spring. Of course I was the only member of NJEA at the march, but there was a nice contingent of Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, so I marched with them.

It's 94 degrees outside today.

Remember when the Orange Menace got elected, and we had that great big Women's March on Washington? I went to that. It's just my personal emotional need to be gathered with like-minded individuals in large numbers. And that is why I braved incredibly hot conditions to be with Philadelphia's union membership.

The Philadelphia Labor Day parade is a moving spectacle. Each local has its membership decked out in matching t-shirts in vivid hues, with pro-labor slogans on front and back. It's easy to find your group, even thought there's more than a thousand people there. The unions march off with their banners ... and it's a long walk, about two miles, to Penn's Landing.

Before the march begins, a bunch of politicians give speeches about the importance of organized labor. This year we had Pennsylvania's governor, Philadelphia's mayor, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, a brace of Congressmen, and some organizers reporting on progress toward unionizing the big Marriott that's opening in Center City. Everyone was Union Proud, Union Strong! The governor said he would veto any anti-union legislation that reached his desk. (What was he going to say to a throng of union members in Philly? But I believe him.)

Here's a new theme, found on banners and t-shirts alike:

Considering that the Heir has two jobs and the Fair has three, I would say this sums up how to make America great again.

I didn't take many photos, since I didn't know anyone. But I did like the hopeful message on this t-shirt:

If there was any sentiment among organized labor that the Orange Menace was out to help unions, that has evaporated like a puddle on a hot summer afternoon. The Menace was roundly booed, and the odious Janus decision by the Supreme Court was not only booed, it was mocked on many a t-shirt.

 I do know that organized labor is the dinosaur, and the ownership class is the asteroid. But it's nice to think, just for one hot, end-of-the-summer day brought to you, like the weekend, by organized labor, that there might be a place for collective bargaining still in this country. Pipe dream, yes. But let me sleep just a few more hours.

United we bargain, divided we beg.