Sunday, January 22, 2012

On Being in Detroit

Krista Tippet's show, On Being, featured Grace Lee Boggs and Detroit this morning. Dr. Boggs is my neighbor - she lives and runs the Boggs Center just a short block from our house here on the East Side of the city.

You can see the episode entry on the show's blog and listen to the podcast if your interest is piqued. I think two of my coworkers collaborated on the pocket park pictured at the bottom of the page. (That is, they worked with five others on a pocket park and I think it's the one pictured. In my searching to confirm this, I also found this great article that mentions both Kate and Lindsey:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Looking out

Forget this business of Detroiters not watching out for each other.

My life was just saved from getting squashed by a bus by not one but to of my neighbors a block down. I was running and nearing the end of the block when two people - not together - both yelled for me not to cross the street. I figured it was because one of them had a dog that was clearly a bit interested in what I was doing. But as I got within 10 feet of the intersection, I saw that a bus was hurtling down the way. (A bus that I have waited an hour for to no avail, by the way.)

They had no idea that I was planning on stopping and turning around at that very point to end my run. They thought I was about to die and they both hollered for me to stop. I count that as two lives saved.

Let's multiply this.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wherein Korla uses profanity

Fuck this noise: Tucson schools ban books by Chicano and Native American authors

Read all sorts of books, y'all. Read 'em! And raise hell when anyone tries to ban them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I just spent an hour with a man who has been kicked out of or attacked in most of the shelters in town. He will sleep outside tonight. January 17. It's been an unseasonably warm winter, yes, but it has been cold and rainy all day. And incredibly windy. He needs to get to a different state, where he has a job lined up and family. But he can't get there and no one has funding for transportation vouchers.

I called around and got kind people, but didn't end up with anything. In the end, he ate a bowl of chili and went to check out the church across the street. And I couldn't do a damn thing to change the situation. It isn't a shock - I have a lot of privilege, but no magic. But I felt so helpless. I, who could at any point look down and see the keys to my home, felt helpless. I, who who have been neither raped nor beaten during a period of homelessness as this man had, felt helpless. I, who would easily have a place to stay in this new city of mine or would be whisked home by my parents if the need arose, felt helpless.

What business do I have feeling helpless? I am home now. The heat just kicked on in the living room as I type this. My clothes stay in a dresser, not a garbage bag - which is not an ergonomic way of carrying things, let me tell you.

Why am I writing this? Processing? Yes. "Awareness-raising"? Maybe. I'm not really sure. But I spent an hour feeling useless. This guy spent yet one more, of what I'm sure have been many, hour hearing from others that he was. Fuck. I don't know. But something has to change.

Funes apologizes for El Mozote massacre

As I mentioned in December, several weeks ago marked the 30th anniversary of the massacre at El Mozote. Yesterday, President Mauricio Funes, in the name of the Salvadoran state, apologized and asked forgiveness for the massacre.

This video is only a clip of a longer speech, but in includes the parts translated for the article above. It is long past time that the Salvadoran government acknowledge and apologize for its role in this killing. But I hate that it has been Funes, the first president with no ties to the death squads and military, who has done all of the apologizing thus far. Thursday marks 20 years since the Peace Accords were signed ending ("ending?") the civil war. And yet it wasn't until 2009 that Salvadorans had a president who was not connected to the state violence of the war. Seventeen years worth of presidents never saw fit to do this (for good and self-preserving reasons, from their POV). It shows a great deal of character that he is doing this - for Mozote, Romero, the Jesuits - he has apologized and asked forgiveness for all of them. He is not a perfect president. But he has done more atoning in his first thirty months than previous presidents did in almost seven times that long.

We as a society have gotten really good at the nonapology - the "I'm sorry IF anyone was offended by that, it was not my intent..." (We seem especially good at this when it comes to race and gender privilege.) Funes is becoming an expert in the opposite - apologizing for horrors that he was not involved in, but for which he now bears the responsibility of atonement because of his position. This is probably one of those times when the only adequate response is 'puchica.'

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wherein Korla makes her Lutheran parents thoroughly uncomfortable

This story has been making the rounds of late. If you haven't read it, it is worth a look:

"Dear Customer who stuck up for his little brother"

This story could have been about me. Sort of. I am not especially like either of those boys - I have no brothers and no interest in video games; I'm queer, but my gender performance is pretty much in line with what society says it ought to be, based on my chromosomes. But we hammer gender into kids from an extraordinarily young age, so all of this, for me, is a matter of luck. I also have a major thing that these boys don't have (yet - I hope): I was raised by feminist parents.

While I was growing up, my dad always told me his favorite colors were pink and purple. In hindsight, I have no idea if this is simple truth or an intentional fib, but I sure as hell relayed that information to my peers on several occasions when boys were picked on for liking "girl colors." Both of my folks cooked a lot; my dad kept us in clean clothes growing up; my mom, having learned from her carpenter father, built the deck in the back yard (with Ella and my help). They played to their strengths and joys, and didn't get too caught up in the who-does-what that often pervades conversations about gender conformity AND non-conformity. (And I was in middle school before I knew that Rabbit, Big Bird, Elmo, Roo, and several other childhood favorites were actually supposed to be boys. :)

The kids in this story have to do that for each other at this point. From this tiny glimpse, it looks like they just might be strong enough to keep at it. But this, as I said, could have been my situation, but for some luck along the way. My hope for this family is that they can grow together. That they can be mutually positive influences. This dad isn't necessarily a villain. He probably has a lot of powerful things to teach his kids. They clearly have things to teach him. I am lucky to have the parents I have; this dad is lucky to have the sons that he does. And the little brother is lucky to have an awesome video game controller.