Saturday, April 19, 2008

Enough with the Snuff Already!

When I read the recent headlines about protesters trying to snuff out the Olympic torch, I couldn't help but think, "What the HELL is wrong with you people? It's the Olympics, for pete's sake! THE OLYMPICS!!!" I'll tell you what's happening here, groupthink and self-absorption are rearing their ugly heads once again.

Don't get me wrong, I am absolutely against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. I believe China stands in gross violation of a number of accepted human rights policies, I firmly feel they should officially recognize Taiwan, and I was opposed to Hong Kong's 1997 transfer of sovereignty from the British to the Chinese, preferring, instead, a policy of H.K. self-rule on matters foreign and domestic.

Now, having established myself as NOT in favor of China’s afore mentioned policies, let me just say this: Given the opportunity to come face to face with some of these silly protesters, I’d have a few questions. (See 1st paragraph of this post for one such example.) I understand the need to raise awareness regarding such circumstances as we see now in various disputed regions of the world, but is snuffing the Olympic flame really the best way to accomplish this?
Often, those running with the flame are regional or local dignitaries or even ordinary people who, for a host of reasons, are noteworthy individuals. Thus, I’m not certain how disrespecting torch relayers on their own turf will do anything but offend locals. Furthermore, why the zeal to destroy? I mean, watch the news—there are lots of people in various cities around the globe who are just chomping at the bit to douse this flame. Were all these like-minded people incapable of putting their heads together and coming up with a less destructive alternative? Clearly they all knew the routes the flame will take and were organized enough to know the general “snuff” strategy—why didn’t they organize a tandem event? How about a parallel relay in which loosely organized groups of people in cities all over the globe come together in a display of solidarity to voice their support for Tibet? No?
I’ll tell you why that didn’t happen—because, truth be told, they probably don’t give a rip about Tibet. Chances are most of them couldn’t locate Tibet on a map! (Note to any protesters who may be reading this: It's the striped one.)

I’m willing to bet they aren’t nearly so interested in the plight of Tibetans as they are in getting on camera and/or making a name for themselves. If you doubt me, ask yourself this question: “How many Tibetans are better off because some jackass in Paris accosted Jin Jing, a wheelchair-bound, amputee athlete, in an effort to snuff the Olympic flame?” (Read ABC News’ account, “Disabled Torchbearer Become Chinese Hero: China Rages Over Attack on Disabled Torchbearer in Paris” at:

That’s right. In attempting to express their outrage at China’s bully approach to poor, defenseless Tibet, protesters in Paris assaulted a one-legged Chinese girl. But it gets better! Her wheelchair was being pushed by a Chinese teammate...who is blind. Oh, the irony is almost too great to bear.

Honestly, the Chinese Communist leaders themselves couldn’t have scripted such a brilliant PR moment had they attempted it. And I’m almost certain the sight of this young, beautiful, paralympian fencer (now a veritable national heroine), accompanied by her visually impaired teammate, struggling to protect the Olympic flame while being harassed by rabid protesters will soften the hearts of a billion Chinese and inspire them to rally to the defense of their Tibetan brothers and sisters. PUH-HUH! (Anybody out there know how to say "We got screwed on this deal" in Tibetan?)

Finally, I think it’s worth noting that, particularly with respect to China, policies of neglect or containment have never, ever been as effective as policies of engagement in terms of greater openness and increased awareness. In fact, you could reasonably make the argument that the 2008 Summer Games will be a good thing, perhaps even the best thing, to happen to Tibet in a long time. First of all, more countries participate in the Olympics than belong to the United Nations—it’s ping pong diplomacy. Second, it is estimated that roughly 16,000 media personnel attended the 2004 summer games in Sydney.

So do the math: 200 countries + 16,000 reporters = a lot of exposure. Inevitably, that means Tibet’s story will be told again and again. And this time, maybe for the first time, the Chinese people themselves will get a more accurate account of what's happening in the rest of the world, including Tibet. And in the mean time, let's all pray authorities can manage to keep protesters from accosting small children or senior citizens.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Kids, and Plygs, and Tilda Swinton

Of course you’ve all heard about it by now:
From CBS News via AP:
“More than 400 children, mostly girls in pioneer dresses, were swept into state custody from a polygamist sect in what authorities described Monday as the largest child-welfare operation in Texas history.

The days-long raid on the sprawling compound built by now-jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs was sparked by a 16-year-old girl's call to authorities that she was being abused and that girls as young as 14 and 15 were being forced into marriages with much older men… Still uncertain is the location of the girl whose call initiated the raid. She allegedly had a child at 15, and authorities were looking for documents, family photos or even a family Bible with lists of marriages and children to demonstrate the girl was married to Dale Barlow, 50.”

Let me say at the onset that I have a policy of zero tolerance when it comes to child abuse—particularly sexual abuse of a child. If these children were being married off at such young ages (and no, I don’t believe any of it can be considered “consensual”) then that absolutely constitutes child abuse in my mind. I don’t believe the law should allow any kid to be married before age 18—regardless of parental consent. I mean, what good could come of it? If, indeed, that’s what was happening, then by all means, get those kids out of there. (And, while you're at it, can we charge these folks with erecting an eyesore? I didn't think west Texas could look any worse...but I'll be damned!)

But there’s another issue at hand here—are these folks being unfairly targeted because they’re polygamists? No, I don’t subscribe to the same doctrine at the core of FLDS beliefs. (In fact, every time I hear them referred to as “fundamentalist Mormons,” I cringe a little…only moments after waking from my stress-induced coma.) But there are multitudes of lifestyle choices to which I do not subscribe, yet I do not believe differences between us gives the government a free pass to raid at will.

For example, anyone recognize the name Tilda Swinton? Well, let me introduce you. Tilda Swinton is an Academy Award-winning actress (2008, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, “Michael Clayton”.) She lives in Scotland, with Scottish painter John Byrne, the father of her twins, Xavier and Honor. However, she maintains a relationship with Sandro Kopp, a New Zealand painter, while continuing her live-in relationship with Byrne. She has been with Kopp since 2004 and the relationship has Byrne's blessing.

I do not agree with Tilda Swinton’s lifestyle. I think she’s a weirdo of monumental proportion and I think her living arrangements demonstrate a gross degree of selfishness. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that what she’s doing is by far worse than what the polygamists are doing. (After all, when plygs sleep around, at least they publicly vow binding, life-long commitments to those with whom they make babies, right?) But I would not support a raid on Tilda Swinton’s home based on an unsubstantiated allegation, nor do I think anything of the sort would ever take place, simply because, in our culture, infidelity is a more acceptable lifestyle choice than is polygamy.

Now, my guess is there’s something we don’t know—maybe the raid was based on more than the phone call, maybe the phone call was the last straw—who knows? In addition to that, we have to consider location—after the Branch Davidian episode, you can’t expect Texans to suffer residents of “compounds” of any sort.

But, there was a report yesterday of a “standoff” at the FLDS temple wherein members would not grant access to law enforcement officials who were, ostensibly, in search of the girl who’d made the initial phone call. This was as disturbing to me as the entire rest of the story. How would I feel, how would I respond, given the same situation? Would I grant government access to a building I believed to be holy simply because the government had demanded it? It’s a hard call.

I’m wanting some feedback here, people!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Scene it?

Short post today, but I thought I'd clue you all in on what has quickly become one of my very favorite movies EVER. If you haven't seen The Painted Veil, I would highly recommend doing so...very soon...immediately, if possible.

There are several reasons to love the film based on the Somerset Maugham novel by the same name--the beautiful setting (interior China, circa 1925) being chief among them. (Seriously, it made me want to go to China!) But also, I think the acting (Edward Norton and Naomi Watts) is impeccable. I love it when I watch a film and I can feel what the character is feeling. (With the noted exceptions of pain and fear, of course, in which case I'm fine with mediocre acting.) At any rate, the actors are superb. Finally, the story itself contains important, timeless messages about love, hurt, betrayal, compassion, selflessness, decency, and forgiveness. If you'd care to see a trailer, please do so at

Oh yes, one last thing--the music is phenomenal. River Waltz and Gnossiennes No. 1 are beautiful pieces, but one song in particular, A La Claire Fontaine, is, quite possibly, he loveliest thing I've heard in a long time. (Unfortunately, they didn't include A la Claire Fontaine on the soundtrack, but the Laure Shang version, available on iTunes, is beautiful, nonetheless.)

If you happen to watch it, I'd love to hear what you thought about it.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

So, I figured I'd better post somethin' up here since it's been nearly three months since anyone's heard from me. (Plus, a FULL three months since my last post?? Now THAT would be embarrassing!)

I had an experience at school today which has, unfortunately, become all too commonplace. Two friends (both females) and I were waiting to take the elevator from the 8th floor of the building where our grad student offices are located, down to the ground level (2nd floor). They were apparently working on the elevators because it took forever. At 7 we pick up a few more passengers (including my least favorite professor ever--lucky me) and at this point we're pretty much filled to capacity (especially when you consider backpacks and other bags.) Nevertheless, we get to 6, the doors open up and, in spite of the fact we are jammed in there like lemmings, two guys and a girl decide they just cannot wait, and they hop on.

As the doors close we heard (and felt) a "snap." Now, I don't know what it was, but it was real and there were witnesses. At this point I begin to get a little nervous. I mean, we are stuffed to the rafters in this thing--the kind where I was getting claustrophobic and taking in gulps of air. We stop at 4, and, again, we hear/feel the "snap." The doors open and there stood a woman; it was clear, by her face, she fully intended on getting on that thing. (Really, lady? You find going DOWN two floors so taxing that you're willing to rub belly, butt, and thighs up against nine strangers just to hitch a ride?)

This is where my friends and I simultaneously decided taking the stairs might be wise. We each politely announced our intention, "Hey, we're going to just get off here," as a way of signaling to the guys at the front, "Move it--we're blowing this popsicle stand." But to no avail. We say it a second time, "'Scuse us--can we get off here?" And then, no joke, the guys at the front, rather than stepping outside the elevator to let us off, merely TURNED TO THE SIDE, BACKPACKS AND ALL, thus further blocking our way. Still, somehow we managed to get off. As we walked toward the stairs, I said, "No problem fellas. By all means, y'all stay there and the women will take the stairs."

Once in the stairwell, we start heading down and begin commenting on how ridiculous that girl and two boys were for getting on in the first place. We also gripe about how we couldn't believe NOT ONE of those men offered to take the stairs even though 1) we were there first, and 2) we were girls. It was about this time that a male student, headed upstairs, cut my friend off and nearly hit her in the face with a door as he entered the 3rd floor hallway! IN THE FACE!! WITH A DOOR!!!

I thought to myself, "For crying out loud, who are these people?" I was utterly embarrassed for them? How had they gotten that old without learning basic manners? And here's the kicker, the professor who was on the elevator with us (Did I mention he was my least favorite, EVER?) is an ethics professor! He understands ethics but not common courtesy? I find that quite curious especially since, as an undergraduate, I had to sit through hours and hours of this guy rambling on and on about "the magnanimous man." Puh! What did he know about any of it?

I guess I'm just so disappointed. I'm sure part of this has to do with the fact I was raised in the South (moment of silence) where, by and large, men still take pride in being men. And if Southern gentlemen were to take up residence in the Rocky Mountain west, then I think logically we could assume they'd be cowboys, right? Or at least cowboy-esque--you know, manly men who, typically speaking, exhibit gentlemanly behavior...with the noted exception of shooting folks in the middle of town. But I've been here four years and I don't mind telling ya', many of these guys are scant on manners--especially when it comes to women! In my opinion, this represents an utter waste of boy parts. Oh, if only they'd institute a "use-it-or-lose-it" policy THEN maybe I'd get to ride the dang elevator all the way to the ground level!