“I thought we were beyond all this…”

Cincinnati’s pervasive tensions around race, class, and gender inequality were omnipresent for those of us who lived there in 2001. In particular, the successive shootings of unarmed African American men by police officers was something of a shock–seriously, how many were there in a row since 2000? Too many, so when Tim Thomas fell in April, the city erupted in protest and unrest.  Hundreds, later thousands, of community members came together to organize nonviolent protests, and early on, we gathered in churches. Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth lived in Cincinnati then, and it was his legacy (among many others) which inspired many of us who never thought we’d have occasion to march for civil rights to get involved. It was life-changing, humbling and permanently affected my perspective on public affairs and our society. Divisions still run too deep, and as painful, uncomfortable, and sometimes confusing it is, I believe it is up to us to grapple with that idealistic vision of Dr. King: to be judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin. What does that really mean? That is an ongoing distillation.

Interviewed at the time about unrest in the city where he had lived since the 1960s, Rev. Shuttlesworth said of Cincinnati that “I thought we were beyond all this” in reference to (as I recall, anyway) the destruction, fires, and more violent components of those few days in April. It was sickening and sobering to realize that we weren’t.

Learning of Shuttlesworth’s death on Wednesday (along with Steve Jobs and Derrick Bell) brought to mind some old Irish superstition about deaths occurring in threes. What a tremendous, momentous loss for us all with these. But of the three, it was the loss of Shuttlesworth which gave me an emotional pause, thanks to those intense days ten years ago.


start spreading the news…

At long last, I have returned to New York!

The move from New Jersey was every bit as fabulous as every one of your moves has been. Also, I get to do it all over again in August. So enough said on that matter.

Right now, my post-graduate school days are terribly glamorous. I finished my campus job a week ago, moved to my first sublet, and am currently out on the job market. (My tagline: I want to write and collaborate with others to make a difference. Yes, I mean it!!)

Obligatory Whining Section: That is all well and good, but I am in need of rest and relaxation. I still have not had a summer weekend which did not include homework, packing, moving, unpacking, resume and cover letter drafting, or some form of migraine battle.

However, there are bright spots and lovely friends in my midst, so despite all of the above, life is beautiful these days.

I plan to write more–certainly more frequently–going forward. It is an incredible feeling to realize how much time you get back simply by completing graduate school. (Yes, let’s thank Captain Obvious for paying a visit here at Ginsberg’s House.)

Cheers!  Hope you’re enjoying a marvelous summer out there!


for all of those poor fish

Last week I’d been reading all sorts of articles about minimizing food waste, partly in the never-ending educational saga of learning how to reduce my carbon footprint.  I am well aware of how pretentious that sentence could seem in many places Out There.  But you see, I care about the earth, nature, trees, flowers, animals, you get the idea, and even clean air and water.  While I have for some time, and am thrilled at how, in some ways, such commitments are so much easier to make now, I also don’t want to become a dour fretting person.  Given how poorly certain policy reforms are going, that might well be appropriate, but that’s another matter.

So one night thereafter I had a dream including a turn of events the stuff of which I won’t bore you, but one element stuck with me.  Suffice it to say that upon much thought the next morning, I finally realized the obvious: I still felt guilty about not taking home leftovers from a restaurant dinner ALMOST A YEAR AGO.

Yes, I felt guilt, even though I can claim a fairly “green” existence right now.  Overall, I don’t tend to spend much on what you might call “consumables” and use whatever food or things come into my house.  While I still find myself fretting over the Diet Coke I bring into classes at night (plastic bottle), I know what others don’t: those Diet Cokes are a strictly-at-graduate-school habit.  (As I sanctimoniously sip my seltzer from a glass while writing this).  Generally, when I go out to eat I do bring home what I cannot finish on the spot.  Overall, I feel good trying to prevent Planet Earth from boiling over.

But the former theorist and perpetual observer in me notes that when it comes to “greening” our lives we can quickly get into an escalating guilt-tripping purity war which I find disturbing–and this is among folks who DO believe in climate change, mind you.

To wit: a recently overheard conversation at school after which I’m pretty sure a few of us were supposed to be mentally wringing our hands feeling personally responsible for some poor fish choking on a plastic bottlecap.  Or something.  Dear readers, I was also susceptible, feeling sad thinking of the recycling that is routinely dumped in the garbage by the fine denizens of Jersey City, worrying about the fate of my poor little Diet Coke bottles.

I don’t mean to imply that I walk around wallowing in constant, angst-ridden, dramatic guilt over every environmental “offense” I may commit.  I try not to beat myself up when I read about, hear from, or see someone else who is a “better” environmentalist than me.  I take what works and move along.  In fact, many of us who are genuinely interested in doing “more” or “better” still don’t know what we need to learn–hence the reading–but also, a point I like to gently remind my more politically active friends on this issue from time to time.  Not knowing everything to “do” doesn’t mean we’re not interested or at least willing to consider different changes.

Catholic school survivors can be masters of guilt, but many of us are also deeply suspicious of any sort of orthodoxy, which I think is a great quality, for the most part.

It’s also helped make me a little neurotic.  (Those poor choking fish!)

“today, we are all Haitians”

So sayeth Nick Kristof.

By now I’m sure everyone knows–or should–that there are several reputable ways to send money (presently the most needed form of assistance) to aid organizations already in or speeding towards Haiti after this week’s tragic earthquake.

I remember watching the anemic response in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, horrified that it seemed to be taking SO long to coordinate rescue efforts.  After all, once you’ve digested the story about what kind of disaster has occurred, and even how, what follows is the inevitably painful imagery and stories of aftermaths, of carnage, of horribly disrupted lives.

This week was somewhat different; I was relieved and proud to see that it seemed as though as soon as resources could be deployed to help, they have been or are being sent.  But the horrible state of infrastructure even prior to Tuesday’s destruction is clearly slowing distribution of the water, food, and medicine that are already sitting on the tarmac in Port au Prince.  Here is hoping that help finds its way to those in need soon.

In the meantime, I’m feeling luckier than ever to live in a place where water comes out of the tap whenever I open it and I live in a place with a functioning government and social safety net.  No small things.