Thursday, February 9, 2017

"European Identity" My Lily-White Ass.


This week, my campus was targeted by a national white supremacist organization as part of a larger national campaign. We found our hallways, library, kiosks adorned with variations on this theme:

The poster in our hall. I've blurred the org. name because F those jerks.

So today, I had to go into two of my classes and address this. There was no internal debate. No should I/should I not -- none whatsoever. Not even for a second. First of all, the issue was a misuse of the very past I was there to discuss, and so it was required that I talk about this, and take a strong stand about the abuses of history. Second, if someone wants to complain that I'm using class time to say mean things about nazis, I'm cool with that. Anyway, I mentioned that these morons were basing their idea of the future being "ours" and belonging to "us" on a bogus claim of the past belonging to "us."

I may or may not have deployed the phrase "ass-ignorant." Reports vary. I am certain that I was shaking at various points.

A representative of our administration made a point about being a public university and thus respecting free speech. Which is true. What is also true is that outright lies are not co-equal with reasonable arguments. Just like it's not "airing both sides" to arrange a debate between a German historian and a Holocaust denier.

It's not so often that medieval history is on the front lines of the fight against nationalism. We tend to get characterized as "esoteric" or even "irrelevant" to the way we live our lives today. But not knowing allows these falsehoods to take hold. And we don't do ourselves, our students, or our society any good by trying to be apolitical in the face of something both historically wrong and morally repugnant.

We have a role to play. Time to step up, be loud, be unafraid and unapologetic. Time for historians to make sure they get right with history.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Three Things for 2017

When I remember I have a blog, I sometimes remember that I have a bit on my sidebar that is called "three things." The principle is simple: decide on three things you want to accomplish that day. They don't need to be huge, but they can keep you moving forward.

Today, I failed utterly to even put on pants, so there's that for a day.

But I have decided on three things I want to aim for in 2017:

  1. Finish my second book manuscript: I know from experience that a "finished" book manuscript will then need to go on to be finished a number of other times: a big revision, revisions for readers, page proofs... and that's if it's successful on its first go out. But I want something done this year. I want to look at 100,000 words that looks like a book.
  2. Read Don Quixote in English: a couple of years ago, I took a class with my friend La Professora and read the damn thing in Spanish. Have you ever tried to read a 1000-page novel in a language that isn't yours? Okay, how 'bout in a 16th-century version of that language? Now what about when the author, for purposes of the narrative, lapses into passages in the 14th-century version of that same language? The point I'm making here is that I only got about 70% of what was going on. But that 70% was enough to convince me that this was possibly the best novel ever written, and that I needed to read it in a format where I could get it all. So I've started on this. A chapter a day (chapters of DQ generally being about 8 pages long).
  3. Save enough money that I could conceivably put a down payment on a condo: I don't know if I'll actually buy said condo. Grit City Beach is expensive. And I'm closer to retirement than I am to my hire date. And who knows what life will bring me in the next year or so. Maybe I'll look at that pile of cash and decide to pay off my student loans. Or take it to the track. Whatever. But I want to have that goal to shoot towards. I won't name the number I have in mind, but it's largish.
As for the rest -- the stuff about getting up early and meditating and not letting my yoga practice slack off this year and ditching that one Really Bad Habit and being a better correspondent -- that stuff's all lurking in the background. But that's a lot to think about. This year, three things. That's enough.