Thank You / Here

Thank you
For assuming the worst of me
For making false accusations

Thank you
For claiming we’re adults but not speaking to me, for shunning me instead,
For being condescending and patronizing

Thank you
For [not] giving me the same chance you gave everyone else
For lying to those who lent you a sympathetic ear

Thank you
For not admitting your own mistakes
For not taking any responsibility for the mess you have helped create
For continually playing the victim while scapegoating me

Thank you
For showing me what our friendship really means to you
For showing me your true colors

So here
You won’t find sympathy or forgiveness–

Here
You will find a smile plastered onto a fragile, cold veneer
With cracks running deep below the surface.

Decision 2016

I’m writing this post with much trepidation–I hate getting involved in politics and typically remain silent, but this election, as so many people have noted, is different. Horrible, horrible things have come out in the course of the election campaign. One of things that saddens me the most about this election is the blind adherence to party labels and affiliations. I know many conservatives/Republicans, and they plan to vote for Trump–they are even proud of their party’s candidate and platform. And to them I say this:*

I know you. I know this man–if we can even call him that–does not represent even the slightest piece of you. I know you would never, ever endorse sexually assaulting women–in fact, you would balk at it. You know women who have been sexually assaulted and abused, and to this day I know you have not forgiven the man who assaulted, abused, and damaged someone you love. I know you love and deeply respect the women in your life–your mother, your sisters, your wife, your daughters. And yet you support a candidate who clearly does not respect women, who constantly degrades  and bullies them and treats them as if they were far inferior to himself. You support someone who brags about assaulting women who would probably congratulate you if you “got some” and/or assaulted someone.

I know you do not yearn for the “good old days” when black people were disenfranchised and enslaved. Unfortunately, you still see the vast majority of blacks as inferior to yourself, but you would never wish a return to the old. I know you do not believe that every practicing Muslim is a terrorist, that every Mexican is an illegal immigrant out to steal jobs. Yes, you have your highly problematic racial prejudices, but I know you do not fully apply these prejudices to each and every person you know who fits the profile. I know you view these people as people. And yet, you support a candidate who goes beyond the blanket application of stereotypes, prejudice, and racism–you support someone who actively and aggressively spews hate speech towards these groups of people and talks about them as if they are inanimate objects, who does not even respect them at their most basic level of humanity.

I know you take pride in yourself and the great education you received at private universities or public ivies. And yet, you proudly support a candidate who cannot string one intelligent sentence together, who cannot apply any of the critical thinking and analysis skills that you hold so dear.

I know you despise people who constantly threaten lawsuits and sue anyone with whom they disagree. In fact, you are disgusted by litigation-happy people who sue for anything and everything, who use lawsuits to worm their way out of responsibilities. And yet, you support a candidate who does exactly that, who has cowardly hidden from his responsibilities and debts behind a personal army of lawyers.

I know you hate how much money you pay in taxes every year–that the government “takes” from you–and you hate people who don’t pay taxes because it means an even heavier burden for you. And yet, you support a candidate who has not paid taxes in decades, who believes he is smart for not paying them–who has put an unbearable burden on you.

I know you value the truth. You absolutely hate it when people lie to you, and you have no patience for people who are not willing to be open and honest with you. And yet, you support a candidate who has lied throughout his entire life, who has lied and deceived at every step of this race, who continues to lie to you, me, and the entire American people.

I know you value freedom and independence. And yet, you have condemned yourself to the exact opposite–with this blind, Pavlovian trailing and support of Donald Trump because he claims to be Republican, you are surrendering your freedom and becoming the ultimate dependent.

Donald Trump does not represent you or your values. Open up your eyes and stop blindly following someone just because he is “your” party’s candidate. Take a look around, pause, and think about who and what he is actually representing. And realize that he is not representing you. Donald Trump represents hatred in a dangerous form. I know you are not like this–do not vote for someone who doesn’t represent who you are.

 


*I write this only to the conservatives I know because I can’t speak for them or their values.

I am

I am hurting and I am healing.

I am waiting.

I am finding my way.

I am constantly questioning, examining myself and the world around me.

I am intelligent and perceptive. And yet
I am still surprised and stung by the things people do and the things people say.

I am sometimes mistaken for a weak, impressionable young woman, but
I am not.

I am a strong young woman.

I am capable of making my own choices, and I do.

I am capable of forming relationships and standing my ground in those relationships, keeping them healthy for me, and I do. I have a backbone.

I am respectful of the people and relationships around me, but
I am not shy about asking for the things that I need.

I am more than the boxes and categories that people try to fit me into.

I am hard working, professional, and dedicated to everything that I do.

I am confident and
I am constantly working on my confidence.

I am a dreamer.

I am charming, vibrant, radiant.

I am a fierce, compassionate woman with an enormous heart.

I am loved and I am love.

I am careful and careless with my heart.

I am not a second choice.
I am not a replacement.
I am not a sometimes.

I am constant, unwavering, yet always changing.

I am a contradiction.

I am me.

I do not want or need the people who don’t respect and appreciate who
I am.

Thoughts on Innovation

“I wonder if we’re so busy trying to be innovative that we’ve lost sight of the educational goals.” —Jennifer Orr, “Educational Innovations: Oxymoron?”

I wonder this same thing so often—about education and about society in general. For so long we as a society have pushed progress, but I think most of the time it’s progress for the sake of progress and nothing greater. It’s a means with no clear end. I think the same thing can be said for “innovation”—it is the thing to do right now. We innovate because everyone else is doing so too, but oftentimes there isn’t a clear end. It’s a tool without a project. What good is a tool without a project? Wouldn’t it sometimes cause more damage on its own than if it had some direction? I have a hammer, but I don’t use it all the time just because I have one. I use it when I have a project that clearly needs a hammer and/or can be enhanced (whether that means ease or efficiency) by using one. Don’t get we wrong, innovation for improvement with a clear goal in mind is perfect and is what we should be doing, but I feel that most of the time there isn’t a goal. We just innovate to innovate.

I’m of the mind that “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It may sound simple-minded, stagnant, and even regressive, but I just can’t always buy into the idea of progress. It isn’t always necessary. If something is functioning well on its own and meeting the needs of its users, then I don’t see any sense in attempting to change it. However, if there is room for improvement, x-thing stops meeting people’s needs, and/or part of x-thing breaks, then innovation/change is necessary and ideal.

Here, too, I’m also thinking about our definition of innovation and Jen’s list from Educon—we so often conflate innovation with shiny, new things and forget that innovation can be borrowing a traditional element from elsewhere or utilizing current tools/elements in a different way. Innovation doesn’t have to be new—it can simply be rethinking and reconfiguring to better fit needs and goals.

To Jen’s last thought, “Maybe innovation is actually slowing us down and holding us back…,” I think in many ways innovation is slowing us down and holding us back because we are so fixated on innovation and the next big, shiny thing that we forget about the resources we already have. We forget about the things we do that are already working, and we spend so much time and so many resources in the name of new innovation, but we don’t often have much to show for it.

ADDENDUM: After reflecting more on this topic, I was still left thinking, “So what?” I’ve done some thoughtful complaining about innovation, but now I need to do something with that. I’ll take this opportunity as a sort of call-to-action for my friends, colleagues, and coworkers: it’s time to think more deeply about innovation. How have you tried to innovate in your classes? Why did you decide that you needed to innovate? Did it work? What parts about the innovative method did/did not work? If you haven’t jumped on the innovation train, why not? What are the benefits and pitfalls of innovation? Will it add something to your course? Will it take away from your course? Does the potential good outweigh the potential bad? Is the time and effort worth it? Who are you considering as you weigh these outcomes–yourself? Your students? The system?

Instead of innovating to innovate, let’s think deeply first about why we think innovation is a necessary and good improvement for each individual thing that we want to change. Truly effective and valuable innovation cannot come without thoughtful and thorough consideration.

Shaping the Memory of Historical Figures

. . . the present generation of “effeminates” . . . would “surprise and shock” America’s military fathers, George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant, if they could see them in their current weak condition.1

The above quote comes from one of my current reading items, Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War, and is a contemporary criticism of American society made by many pro-gun and pro-preparedness advocates. As I read this quote, I thought back to the countless number of times that I or someone else has evoked the Founding Fathers (or any other historical figure, for that matter) to justify a way of thinking. “George Washington would be so appalled at going on in our country today.” “Thomas Jefferson wanted XYZ when he was founding America–he would be rolling over in his grave if he could see it now.”

What is particularly intriguing to me is how we use our historical memory and idolization of these figures as some sort of mirror for the ideologies of today–and think that somehow it is a logical extension of that person and their ideals from decades or centuries ago. Which got me wondering: how has this anachronistic extension of historical figures become so commonplace? And how have we been able to accept it as logical and use it in our ideological justifications?

I don’t exactly know how the process begins (probably a psychological issue that I in no way understand), but somewhere along the way, the now-historical figure is recognized by their peers and succeeding generations as a “great” person. Maybe it’s something they’ve done, maybe it’s something they’ve said, but for whatever reason, they become great, worth remembering. In becoming memorable, society begins to idolize them, and idolization brings much identity erasure–who wants their idol to have blemishes on their record? This identity erasure is made all the more easy as time passes on and moves farther away from the subject. For example, I find it extremely difficult to believe that we actually know much about what George Washington or Thomas Jefferson thought when they were living and helping found America because we know very little about their private lives. Much of their personal (private) correspondence was burned because they wanted to keep it private–the records that we do have are ones they deemed acceptable and even necessary for posterity to have. For other historical figures, the questions of preservation and access to whatever sources hold parts of their identities also come into play. We have no way of knowing what any of these people were actually like. In all likelihood, we have largely misremembered them–aided by the identity erasure and idolization.

Through these processes, (at least in my estimation) the historical figures become blank slates. In creating the blank slates, it becomes incredibly easy for us, or any other generation, to project our own ideals upon them, and we can continue to shape the historical “memory.” I would think that once the slate is a little cleaner, with even just a small space for society to begin projecting contemporary ideals upon it, or perhaps even just blurred, the process becomes cyclical: remember, idolize, erase, project, idolize, erase, project, idolize, erase, project. Through this cycle, we shape these figures into who we want them to be and give them contemporary qualities and ideals, thus making them acceptable and logical extensions of society that we can use for comparison and justification. Remember, idolize, erase, project, idolize, erase, project, idolize, erase, project. Remember.


1. Kimberly Jensen, Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2008), 39.

Museums, History, and Cultural Appropriation

I’ve always loved museums and history, and I’m fascinated by how we conceive of, interpret, and define what they actually are, particularly when the historical focus is specified. American history–what is that? The history of America? Which regions? Is American history the history of Americans? Who are Americans? What comprises the history that we decide to tell? What about the parts that we decide not to tell? Do they still count as history? Each of these questions can be broken up into so many smaller categories and distinctions, but they all come back to a basic principle: history is not nearly as simple and straightforward as many people think or have learned in our public education system. The rich complexity of history is what draws myself and so many others in and fascinates us–however, this same rich complexity also makes the telling of history fraught with difficulties.

At a recent lunch with curatorial staff at the National Museum of American History (NMAH), my colleagues and I delved deep into a conversation about the challenges of telling history and how thus far, in our view, the museum (as well as many others) has left out minority voices, focusing instead on the traditional history of white men. In this particular conversation, we were thinking of women and Latinos as underrepresented minorities in historical narratives, but I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we were really thinking of ALL minorities (racial, ethnic, sexual, etc.). We agreed that the inclusion of minority voices is an absolute necessity for the museum going forward because each group’s experiences inform our understanding and interpretation of American history. Interestingly, but perhaps predictably, my colleagues were opposed to having separate museums, each dedicated to a minority group (e.g., Women’s History Museum, Latin American History Museum, etc.), and insisted that their stories should be told in the museum for American history because they are part of American history.

I wholeheartedly believe that the experiences of each and every group of people–minority or not–make up our history. However, because of America’s exclusionary history and the distinct identities of minority groups (whether these identities were given by white Americans or adopted by the minority groups themselves as way to define themselves against others), the reality is that each group does have a unique history. Women’s history has been drastically different from that of men due to gender inequality, and to this day our story is different because we are still fighting against gender inequality. And, biologically, women are different than men–there are some stories than can be told only by women. African American history has been drastically different because of their enslavement–the realities of black chattel slavery can be told only by the slaves’ voices. To this day, their story is different because they are still fighting against people and institutions in which discrimination and racial inequality are deeply bred. Native American history and culture is very different from “traditional” American history and culture because Europeans invaded their lands and steadily took everything that they could. I could go on and on and not even scrape the surface, but the point is that everyone, every group, has a unique history and deserves a place to showcase it apart from the typical American narrative. Having separate museums dedicated to particular groups allows them to present that history in a space where it becomes the most important narrative, where it recognizes, highlights, and honors the diversity of American experience.

However, cultural differences and idiosyncrasies aside, it is still unequivocally true that these minority histories feed into the larger narrative of, and in fact are, American history. They deserve and should have a place in the general American history museums–it is imperative that minority voices are valued and included in the narratives we put forth. For so long we have been an exclusionary society–we cannot afford for our museums to perpetuate this culture of exclusion. Instead, we must work to showcase these histories as part of the broader narrative, as I and my colleagues are trying to do.

But at what point are we appropriating the history and cultural heritage of minorities for our own use? At what point are we simply expressing our superiority and dominance over another by taking someone’s history–and the physical pieces of it–and saying it is our own? Privileged Americans–those with the time and money–have done much of this appropriation throughout the years. Only in the past few decades has a more genuine culture of educated collection and curatorship taken hold. Even still, it is a fine line to walk because most of the people interpreting and presenting minority histories in a general museum are not part of that minority group. Though I didn’t notice at the time, all of us taking part in the lunch and museum discussion at NMAH were educated, middle-class white women, with the exception of two being Latina. At this moment, I’m struck by the irony that I am writing this piece instead of someone from an underrepresented and underprivileged group. Are museums doing enough to seek out these people–those who really should be telling stories (and approving that telling)–particularly when the demographics that most need to be reached are also the most difficult to reach?1 Are museums doing enough to include the voices that need to be heard?

From what I have seen during my admittedly short time in museums, they are certainly heading in the right direction. However, there is still much work to be done to assure that we present more comprehensive narratives while respecting and honoring the diverse cultural heritages and histories of the many people who make up this country. We have to be so careful to not claim someone else’s history as our own without a thorough understanding of it, and the best way to understand it is to let those people speak for themselves.

Addendum: To be clear, we need to have distinct museums for minority groups as well as the inclusion of their narratives within general history museums. We need both. Because who are we to tell others how to portray their history and the importance it plays in the bigger picture? Everyone comes to the table with a different perspective, and they should be allowed to–they need to–express their views.


1. I’m thinking specifically about people who don’t have access to technology or adequate education, people who live in isolated areas, people who live in poverty, and people whose distinct identities in society are only now coming to be recognized (transgender individuals, for example). It seems to me that museum outreach struggles to meet these groups of people because it still operates in very traditional channels of American society.