Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On the Inside

I'm totally traumatized right now; I feel like the worst person in the whole world. This is one of those instances that is only significant to you, even though it's small compared to other people. Looking at my last post, it seems quite insignificant. This doesn't change the fact that I want to crawl under a rock and shy away from the sun today.

I graded undergraduate papers for the first time.

It's emotionally hard for me to judge the efforts of other people. Many of these people have decent ideas, but they lack the ability to express them clearly. I can tell some people tried very hard to construct a good paper and failed in the process. I'm imagining people crying in their dorm rooms because they put in so much effort into their paper and feel helpless against my tyrannical grading style.

Of course, I tried to err on the side of generosity. Some fellow TAs grade harshly to an extreme. Also, my professor set a 'B' as a solid paper. If I had the option, I'd give everybody an 'A,' like we can do in graduate school. Despite all this, there's something unsettling about wielding my new-found academic privilege and having to give people harsh grades in the process. I'm on the inside of this process now and I don't like looking out.

I hold writing workshops throughout the quarter. One can only hope that people take advantage of the opportunity.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Drawing Blood: Proposition 8

I've just come back from a lecture on the Francoist Spanish State at the University of California, San Diego. This project is meant to catalog and preserve the oral history of those who suffered under the fascist regime after the Spanish Civil War. The religious and conservative Francoist civil war toppled the elected government of Spain in a military strike fueled by Nazi and fascist Italian support. Europe escalated towards global war and many Spanish citizens paid the price.

The Francoist regime ordered the execution of countless civilians, including school teachers who were associated with a secular governmental enterprise: education. The first city bombings and use of mechanized warfare shocked the world with their brutality. After three years of pure destruction, the fascist government emerged as the central power in Spain. I sat there before big-screened, personal recount of this conflict. It was painful to hear the voices of those who opposed the regime and those who suffered under the loss of life and liberty. I sat there as an old man cried for his lost wife and child. Brutal slaying in the name of tradition and order. Those who fought for their freedom were met with death. Wholesale, unyielding death.

I'm sat in the lecture hall and thought about my own history. My grandmother recently told me about our family's migrant circuit: Texas for cotton, California for grapes, Wisconsin for cranberries. I've had a similar, yet more nuanced trail. Texas circumvented my civil rights as a gay man in 2005. Wisconsin halted my pursuit for equality in 2006. Now I am in California, the golden state. Days ago, I was finally a first-class citizen. My long searching for a place where I could be equal (in my own land) had come to a close.

Those same days ago, I was converted back into a second-class citizen as my civil rights were stripped away. This denial of personal liberty was written into the constitution, the very fabric of what makes this state. It's a profound message and I've received it as it was intended. To the Francoist regime, I would have been seen as a lion stalking the traditional, conservative view of society. In California, I must similarly be a horrible threat to challenge such a fundamental thing as a definition of "family" that has existed for only little more than 100 years.

On my side of this fight, I have seen the murder, psychological torture, and crucifixion of gay men and women like myself. People I have worked with have been brutally stabbed and died because of their sexuality. Countless more individuals suffer under the current governmental structure that rebukes them. Many of these young people would rather commit suicide than live with such violence and hatred. I speak about all of this from both scholarship and personal experience.

So, I have an imminent question to pose those who decided to purposefully create a government that strips my personal freedom. I have an honest question for those who voted yes on proposition 8: when is it alright to defend yourself and your loved ones with force? If an innocent person were to be threatened with brutal crusifiction, am I required to defend this person by whatever means necessary?

I'll let you in on my perspective on that question. Lean in close. I'm willing to die to defend my freedom. I can only wonder if those who voted yes hate so much that they are willing to die to take it. What does it cost them to give me liberty? Nothing. Yet, they cannot imagine what it costs for them to take it away.

Now, I'm not advocating assassination or violence. The system changes when blood is drawn; political force is converted into its true nature, violent force. However, we are the ones who have played nice. We are the ones who have loved our neighbors. Blood has already been spilled. That blood has been from people just like me. Believe me, I don't want to be next and I'll do whatever is in my power to make sure that doesn't happen.

Perhaps, one day, someone will record the countless voices who have suffered the brutal beatings by bigots. Someone will save the "yes on 8" hate speech that condones and indirectly promotes this violence. Our suffering may not be as overt as the Madrid bombing, but it's there. It's the same Death. Silent Death.

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