Blog Archives

Roundup: First Blog Carnival on Privilege

Welcome to the First Blog Carnival on Privilege!  First, thanks to all the bloggers who contributed to this first round of the carnival.  I was excited to see all the different takes on privilege represented here, and the diversity of those who submitted.  You can see all the entries below the cut, and follow links through to read the complete posts.  I also want to announce that we will be having a second carnival, since this first round was so successful.  To give everyone plenty of time to think about submissions, the second carnival entries will be due Sunday, May 23rd.  The topic for the second carnival will be White Privilege, so start thinking about race and racism for your posts.  I would also accept posts for the second carnival that deal with other sorts of racial privilege, for example if you want to write about a community where one group is privileged based on the color of their skin, but that group isn’t “white,” that’s perfectly fine.  Submissions again can be e-mailed to judithavory [at] gmail [dot] com.  If we get a lot of submissions again, then I’ll probably switch over to a monthly format, and perhaps ask for other hosts for future carnivals.  Also, because this came up a couple of times in this round, I do prefer new posts, but if you want to submit an older post for a carnival and not rehash an issue, that’s also fine.

And now, on with the carnival!

Read the rest of this entry

The Importance of Culturally Appropriate Interrogation Techniques

Although the current interrogation manual used by the Army does, I am happy to say, specifically prohibit the use of sexual or religious interrogation techniques, I was rather disturbed to read about the previous approach to interrogation, based almost entirely on the degree of physical force used to determine whether inappropriate techniques were being used.  This approach is flawed from the general standpoint of how the armed forces should look at lawful interrogation versus torture in the first place, but I was specifically bothered by the use of sexual and religious methods designed to humiliate a detainee because they represent a complete failure to understand why these methods are inappropriate.  In conducting interrogation, the question should not simply be, “are we torturing the detainee in violation of international law?”  Certainly, that should be a threshhold question, but beyond that there is another question I want the interrogators to be asking.  “Are we using techniques that (1) are actually designed with the sole purpose of obtaining information and (2) conform with our social expectations of dignity and respect for human beings?”  The whole point of having laws of war is that there are certain expectations that apply, even when dealing with the enemy (putting aside for the moment the question of whether some of these detainees even are legitimately “the enemy.”)  

I’m bothered by any interrogation technique that is designed to humiliate the prisoner because it’s disrespectful and it doesn’t work.  First of all, from everything I’ve seen and read, the most effective interrogators are those who are patient and develop a rapport for the detainee.  Respect is a very powerful tool, as is cultural understanding.  Ideally, interrogators should be those who speak the subject’s language and whenever possible either come from or are very familiar with the subject’s culture and religion to whatever extent possible.  Even inadvertant cultural faux pas can diminish respect for the interrogator and make a subject defiant.  Intentional humiliation techniques in many cases are only going to harden the subject against revealing anything, and at the same time they compromise the interrogator.  If the army uses these techniques, it’s going to develop self-hatred and psychological damage among its interrogators as well as the detainees.  It will also further damage our already pretty shitty international reputation.  And finally, using these techniques is evidence of a purpose that has little to do with information – desire to humiliate, to dehumanize, to make one’s self greater than the subject.  Use the Golden Rule, folks.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Unrelated note: Please note that discussion is open on Patience & Sarah, as is the Round Four suggestions thread.  To encourage more discussion in the future, I’ll be posting specific discussion questions within each round’s discussion forum on the boards to get the juices flowing.  Of course, anyone is welcome to simply post their thoughts or start a thread with a question of their own, but I’m hoping that more directed discussion will encourage more participation.  Of course, as always, this is an entirely guilt-free group, and if I’m the only one reading in a round I’m just happy to have read the book!  Feel free to comment on a discussion post well after the round has started if you read the book late.  I myself haven’t read P&S yet, which is why discussion questions aren’t up yet 😉

And now for a completely silly thought…

When I was a kid, I believed (and still do to some extent, though now I just admit that I know nothing about the afterlife but am looking forward to finding out what it’s like) that when we die we all go to heaven and it’s simultaneously the perfect place for every individual.  So like my mom could be in a beautiful garden with my Daddy and I and yet somehow simultaneously Daddy could be with us in a perfectly green, energy-efficient house that he designed.  Or whatever.  But I just remembered that belief and thought, “hmm, I wonder if when I die I’ll go to Valinor.”


L'shana tovah!

And apparently Eid Mubarak as well, I learned in two classes today.  We talked about Eid in Law in the Muslim World and my Turkish teacher also mentioned Bayram (same thing).  No one knew that it was Rosh Hashannah, though.  Strange.  

I meant to talk a bit about homosexuality in Judaism today, but I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off!  Two ACs this week, several deadlines next week and the week after, and I’m going to be gone Friday through Sunday working to get the word out to voters about the possible abortion ban in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  I’m looking forward to it, but I may crash and burn before I get there.  Ugh.  Last night I couldn’t sleep till one am and apparently slept walked because I woke up shivering and found my blanket, perfectly folded, in a living room chair.  Weird.

It's the New Yorker, people!

I apologize for the fact that a number of the posts in the next month or so will probably be referencing events that have long passed and been blogged about, but I’ve been amassing things I want to talk about, and I still want to!  The first of these is the New Yorker cover that had everyone up in arms a few weeks ago.  People were freaking the hell out before it even showed up in my mailbox, and my reaction was “uh, really?”

As the cartoon in the Post and accompanying comment by Howard Wasserman point out, there is context here.  It’s the New Yorker.  It’s irreverent.  I thought it was pretty darn clear that the point of the cover was to poke fun at the absurdity of equating Obama’s race, “fist jabs,” and middle name with terrorism.  I found it funny.  I think a lot of other New Yorker subscribers would agree.  The Daily Show did a great piece on the ridiculousness of it all, as well.

But the first things I heard of the cover were from Feministe and Feministing.  Commenters on both blogs recognized the joke, but argued that only the “elite readership” would get it and that it was inappropriate as a “recruitment poster for the right wing.”  Frankly, I’m not so worried.  I think people, elite or not, are smart enough to know that Obama is not a terrorist.  Considering the barrage of images and suggestions those who watch the television media get on a daily basis, I can’t imagine that the New Yorker would have a greater impact – unless, of course, mainstream media decided to latch onto the cover and talk it to death until people started wondering if… oh, wait.

Tension in Turkey

I still have a great big pile of blog posts and news clips to blog about, which I’ve finally organized into posts based on topic, but since my week is a little crazy, I’d just like to make a little off-the-cuff comment about what’s going on in Turkey.  For those of you who don’t know, the highest court in Turkey ruled today not to allow a ban on the ruling party but instead to cut its state funding in half for trying to impose Islam on the secular nation.

When the news was first coming out about the headscarf issue, I found it very interesting to hear the perspective of my Turkish teacher, Bahar, who like many women in Turkey is Muslim but believes strongly in the secular state.  The way she described it, secularism is the most fundamental principal of the Turkish state and thus allowing women to wear headscarves in school would be a threat to the state’s historical foundations and its values.  In other words, there is a huge fear of the slippery slope.

I have trouble deciding where I stand on this – not that it really matters, as I’m not Turkish, but I still tend to have an opinion on foreign politics.  On the one hand, I see her arguments, especially in light of what has happened in neighboring states and considering Turkey’s position and reputation as a unique secular, modern, democratic state whose population is mostly Muslim.  On the other hand, I grew up in the US where freedom of religion is heavily valued, and it seems strange to me that someone would ban a political party based on its religious ties – not all that democratic, I would think.  It will be interesting to see how all this plays out, in any event.

I'm polyreligional.

Last night, I was listening to Jesus Christ Superstar on repeat for a few hours, singing along, and I started thinking about the character of Jesus, and my own sort of relationship with Christianity.  I remember when I was maybe thirteen or fourteen, around the time I decided that Jesus really did die for our sins (wait, wait, don’t go away, there’s more!) I started feeling very guilty about things like saying “God damnit,” or negative/joking portrayals of Jesus in pop culture.  I still do have a teeny bit of good old fashioned Christian guilt, and whenever I sing along with certain characters in the musical, there’s a bit of a “hmm” moment.  You have to wonder where on earth that comes from, as I don’t actually believe God cares if we mock him, portray him negatively, etc.  I think that our creative spirit should be used in whatever way we find for it, whatever’s right for us, and if we’re not hurting anyone, then why not?  There’s something spiritual, I think, in very enthusiastic mockery of religion – you’re asking questions about faith and truth, and I’d like to think God would encourage that in any form.

My own religious identity tends to raise eyebrows.  I’m not a fan of organised religion, but my beliefs do share elements with a few established religions, so I incorporate those terms when someone asks what I am.  I used to say that I was a Judeo-Christian Daoist Buddhist, and that’s more or less the best term I can come up with.  I identify strongly with elements of Eastern philosophy and spirituality, especially in terms of harmony in nature and the value of detachment and doing good deeds.  I don’t think Eastern religions are in any way mutually exclusive from Christianity in that regard.  My mother, who considers herself “spiritual,” used to read to me from the Book of Dao under the Christmas tree, and I think her sort of “do good, don’t harm others” syncretic religion is a great way to be.  As for the Judeo-Christian part, I really don’t mesh all that well with any existing form of Christianity, but I retain it because it’s the easiest way to incorporate that whole believing in Jesus bit.  My mother’s father was the rector of a very old, very large Episcopalian church, and so I still feel most comfortable in Episcopalian services.  However, I was never confirmed, because I don’t really believe in Anglican doctrine.  I’m deeply saddened by the schism in the church, and still feel connected to that tradition in some way, but my form of Christianity doesn’t really involve any sort of practice, so I rarely attend services.  My brand of Christianity is highly faith-based, and I don’t believe in any sort of Hell (I do believe in heaven).  My spin on it is that Jesus died for all of our sins, and no matter what we do in this life, we’ll be forgiven.  I think we should continue to do good in order to benefit humanity, not because of benefit in the afterlife.  I also don’t believe that any one religion is “right.”  I believe that God is so big, so awesome, so complicated, that he can be one and more than one God at the same time, or be no God, or be nature, or be anything.  I think trying to understand God is a bit futile.  I don’t really think we’re supposed to understand him, but any religious or non-religious practice that brings us closer to good, to inner comfort and peace, and to spreading good things to other people is just fine by me.  When it comes to practice, that’s where my Jewish-ness comes in.  In college I called myself the “pseudo-Jew,” because I have no family connection to the religion, and I don’t attend services, but I do practice in terms of fasting at Yom Kippur, celebrating Rosh Hashanah, and keeping kosher for Passover (and attending a Seder when I can).  I find that these practices bring me closer to God in that they raise awareness and make me think about my spiritual life at least three times a year.  I hardly pray at all anymore, nor do I have time to meditate, so I like this opportunity to remind myself of my own faith.

So despite my little society-induced cringes of guilt from time to time, I think I’m not doing a bad job of living my life the way I believe God wants me to live it.  One thing is certain – I’ve never felt guilty about loving women, about how I have sex, or about any of my other so-called “moral shortcomings.”  When we look at the big picture, these things aren’t that big a deal, anyway.  If I feel happy, fulfilled, and at peace with myself, I believe that I’m doing the right thing.  When I do pray, I pray that God help me find the right path for me, because I may not know it or be able to find it.  And despite what some Christians may think, I believe that he has.  

That’s all for now, folks.  Remember: Coexist.