30 October, 2008

Our first post-colonial president?

Rarely do I engage in my blogs on political issues since these are primarily for my classes, but I heard something on NPR coming to work today that forced me to pause and post. I heard an interview with Jon Meacham, an editor for Newsweek magazine, who was commenting on Obama's most critical experience. Meacham asserted that Obama's growing up in Indonesia has been extremely important since he could be the first president to have been on the "receiving" end of American influences.

WOW--this idea suggests to me that Obama's potential presidency--besides issues of race (which I believe are and should be irrelevant) is really about post-colonialism and--as many critics have asserted--an opportunity to "speak back to the empire."

As I think about this concept--that Obama could be the first "post-colonial" president--I begin to think that one of the conflicts we are seeing played out between Obama and McCain is the exact same conflicts post-colonial theorists are writing about. Consider the dynamics: McCain has all the trappings of the empire: his age, his wealth, his power, his military history. Obama, on the other hand, is the "colonized" nation: young, vibrant, rich in resources (I would point to his powerful rhetoric and his intelligence)--but "other." For the empire (aka McCain) this "talking back" (Obama's challenges on all of McCain's significant platform issues) is threatening and disconcerting.

And let's not overlook the addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket. She, too, is emblematic of the "empire": first--she is clearly on the ticket to validate the "man's" place. Secondly--her intellectual deference to McCain further reinforces the role of the "man"--and by extension, the empire. Thirdly--she brings to the ticked the accoutrement that asserts the "man's place": her obvious display of role of wife and mother; her assertions about cooking moose and elk; her favoring of guns (I don't want to go down the Freudian bunny trail here--I will leave that for later). . . .I think readers get this point.

And Obama is--for all intents and purposes--the "poster-child" for post-colonial: he is exotic and mysterious--from his ethic mix to his name. He is threatening with his hard questions back to the authority. Obama is, as Bill Ashcroft describes post-colonial characteristics, "uncentred, pluralistic, and multifarious." And I am convinced that these aspects of Obama's character and his campaign are what so many find disturbing about him, instead of his policies. Why else would there be outright lies running rampantly across the web about his being a Muslim? Why else would there be a tempest in a teapot over the fist bump between Obama and his wife? Why else would there be misapplication of labels of Obama as a "socialist" or a partner with a "terrorist."

What would be the result of a post-colonial president? I hope that there will be a re-energizing of American democracy. I look for broader inclusion of different voices in our American experiment. Ironically--I believe a post-colonial president Obama would more emphatically validate the notion we've heard from Puritan times through this election cycle: the United States is a shining beacon to the world. What better way to make the light shine brightly than to show how American values respect--even embrace--other into the fabric of our nation.

16 May, 2008

This, I Believe

Sam Keen wrote the book about 30 years ago now, The Apology for Wonder. Sam's purpose was to encourage us--in the last quarter of the 20th century--to take a moment, suspend our rational minds, and simply allow awe to happen. He seemed to believe this defense was necessary since we--as American specifically and humans, in general--seem to have become jaded and disconnected from the ability to experience awe.

I think it is time to be reminded of Sam's intent and I want to assert my belief in awe. Wordsworth told us two centuries ago about the splender in a blade of grass. I remember the awe-inspiring moments of my life--ranging from seeing the pictures of the mushroom clouds of nuclear explosions to Neil Armstrong's steps to the births of my daughters. All were awe-inspiring.

I've seen a rainbow disappear into Lake Innisfree and a golden hue be cast along the trees and the road as I drove home from work and the sun was lowering in the west right here in central North Caroline. I've been moved to tears in the anticipation of vacationing with my family and hearing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" as I hurried to be with them. I stood with my wife at Disney's Hollywood Studios in December and watched fake snow float around us, while listening to Johnny Mathis', "A Christman Song." I thought my heart would burst with the awe and joy of that moment.

I really believe in awe and in our earnest attempt to save it. My teenage and pre-teen daughters use "awesome" so promiscuously . They need to learn what "awe" really is. Their entire generation needs the lesson. They are connected 24/7 and are so bombarded with images and experiences that they are--as Pink Floyd told us two generations ago, "comfortably numb."

What can we do to save "awe"? I think the answer may be in the cliche that "less is more." Perhaps we need to indulge are children less. Perhaps we need to turn off their connections. We can exercise the power of our index finger and turn TV and PCs "off" and let our children simply stop for a moment and reflect. I believe that through encouraging reflection, we can rehabilitate "awe."

Think about it: when was the last time we really enjoyed silence? When was the last time we simply stood quitely in the trees and marveled at the nuances of green in srping? When was the last time we delighted at something as simple as bluebird darting by? These are simple things, but they are also awe-inspiring when we take the time to pause and reflect. And that, I believe, is the core of "awe": taking the time to delight in simple things--like sky and water and trees and time together, instead of always rushing to the next experience. Pause, reflect, and experience awe. It is really so simple. . .

25 February, 2008

Why My Life Would the Sci-Fi/ Fantasy Genre

I was visiting "The Pen. . . " blog site and was prompted by a random question: What "genre" of film or literature would I be? I thought and dug around a little online and I found this quote, attribute to Rod Serling: "science fiction makes the implausible possible, while science fantasy makes the impossible plausible." The last ling, "makes the impossible plausible, " resonated with me. When I look at my life and look where I am now, I can't help but think that the arch of my life has been the making of something "impossible, plausible"!

Most obviously is my lovely wife, Thelma. Who would ever have thought that at 40, I would meet someone as lovely, brilliant, and funny--who was 15 years my younger--and who would love me with a depth that I've longed for my entire life. The impossible became plausible when she agreed to marry me and on October 19, 1993, we became husband and wife. I love her more and more each day.

My five daughters are something that would have seemed impossible for me--yet here they all are! Tessa is the oldest and is extemely smart and talented. She was the only non-music major to have a senior recital before her graduation from Warren Wilson College. Erin, my second, is just as smart as her older sister. The middle daughter, Amanda, came with Thelma from Thelma's first marriage. Amanda, my middle daughter, is funny and charismatic, very much like her mother. Marissa came about seven years after Amanda, so she have taken on the birth order of "the oldest" in her personality. Indeed, I see a great deal of the younger Tessa in Marissa. Natalie is the baby and was quite a surprise. . . as she still is to this very day! We never know what quip she may come up with, but it will always surprise. All of these girls validate for me the idea of "making the impossible plausible"!

My career is certainly the making of sci-fi/fantasy! Who would have ever thought that the shy, bookworn in the back of the room would be known by some of the students where I work as "the wise old owl"? Who would have ever thought when I was in high school that I would earn a Ph.D. in rhetoric and composition? Who would ever have thought the impossible thought when I was in college that I would "grow up" to be a college associate dean? Every step of my career seems to be the "impossible being made plausible."

I could add to the list a variety of life experiences that seem "the impossible becoming plausible": the places I've travelled, the people I've meet, the work I've done--all of these speak to the openning assertion about the "impossible becoming plausible." So--what would you be if you were a "genre"?