Friday, November 24, 2006

Monday, November 20, 2006


There are times when I'm embarassed about my idealism. My socialist politics, for example, never went over well with Sandy and Florina. They come from countries crushed by communism - they have every right to be jaded. And maybe my ideals are just silly untested things. I'm in such an ivory tower that I can afford to be concerned about whether the phrase "that sucks" is derogatory to women and queer men.

But I'd rather struggle to live small ideals than live none at all. Idealism is useless when it's not lived. When people go to protests but then go home and pay their taxes and drink their can of Coke and don't write their Congresspeople, they're doing nothing but feeling self-righteous. In middle school my closest friends put their hearts and souls into Star Wars and the cause of an imaginary rebellion against an evil Empire. We made up innumerable scenarios in which we, freedom fighters, died for our ideals. Where did that go? In a world where our tax dollars aid the massacre of real people, why aren't they willing to risk their lives for the lives of innocents here and now?

This weekend I met people who've had their idealism tested. I was at the School of the Americas vigil at Fort Benning, Georgia. The US military runs a training camp there for Latin American soldiers, a camp that's trained many of the worst human rights abusers in the area. I heard torture victims speak. I heard a man talking about having a machine gun put to his back for illegally filming government atrocities in Mexico. Last year a man who spoke at the vigil was killed upon returning to his home country.

But people still come, and they still speak out. People who have witnessed the worst side of humanity come every year to talk about peace and progress. Yesterday they led 20,000 people in singing "Hay esperanza!", and I believed it when they sang it. There is hope, and that hope is worth dedicating our lives to.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Anybody who knows me well knows that I spend a good deal of time getting excited/worried planning how I'll live in ten or twenty or fifty years. This week I've outdone myself.

Last summer I started reading up on cohousing, where people have seperate houses or flats with kitchens and bedrooms but share communal kitchens, outdoor spaces, etc. The advantages are having a tightknit community and sharing meals, appliances, etc. The problem is that they're often built from scratch in the suburbs, thus ruining down forest or farmland and isolating residents from public transit. Urban cohousing seems to exist only as expensive flats, which I'm not interested in. But I was determined to live in some kind of intentional community, so I figured I'd have to find a way to make the cohousing thing work. And I was going to be a social worker.

Last week I realized I don't want to be a social worker at all, and I certainly don't want to go to grad school. That was earthquake number one.

Earthquake number two was Tuesday when a friend told me about her plans to study intentional communities all over the world, including one in Leeds, England with twelve young activist types running a printing press, a resource center, and a garden. It sounded ideal, and my immediate thought was that West Yorkshire was the place for me. I could work in nonprofits there, meanwhile enjoying life in the font of Quakerism, good folk music, the Pre-Raphaelites, no hurricanes, no language barrier, and all other good things. I walked about in this dream for two days when I started worrying that I'd wind up married to some Englishman who'd want to eat high-cholesterol food and name our children Nigel and Rupert. The children would grow up to be hooligans using words like "naff" and "twee" in conversation. (I'm like the Grimms' clever Elsie who's terrified that the axe in the beam that may fall on her future child but doesn't think to just pull the axe out of the beam.)

This led me to the directory of intentional communities to see if there were similar houses closer to home. And voila! We've got lots. Bright Morning Star, Quaker House, and Sophia Community are some that looked delicious. (The Emma Goldman Finishing School gets the prize for best name.) Rent is cheap, often $300-$500, meals are shared, and you get to know your housemates far better than in a cohousing community with scores of families. Lots of these houses seem to attract activist types, which is exactly who I want to be around. I've always known I don't need much space as long as it's pretty, and a dozen people can afford to share a beautiful old Victorian far more easily than any of them could afford an ugly apartment.

I'm so delighted with this idea. You're welcome to lay bets on how soon I change my mind, though.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Get it right

I'm fascinated to read that the movie of The Importance of Being Earnest is rated PG "for mild sensuality". What exactly are the characters doing that children shouldn't see? Feeling the satin lining in their coats? Licking maple syrup off a fork at breakfast? Smelling the air as they walk outside in the morning? I'm so tired of people confusing sensuality with sexuality.