Posts Tagged ‘culture’

…that you could only read 7% of the internet.

Imagine if you couldn’t understand most of what was posted on youtube.

Imagine if you were cut off from most global news.  Or worse, cut off from even understanding news about your own country or community from an outside (let’s say for the sake of argument, less biased) source.

Imagine if you couldn’t take free online college courses because you couldn’t read the lessons or communicate with the teacher?

How much knowledge would you be denied…

…if you didn’t speak English?


I don’t think it’s enough to have one common language to bring us all together.  I think we need to all understand and strive to communicate in multiple languages.

Language isn’t just a set of words and grammar rules; it’s a reflection of culture, belief, ideology, philosophy, history, and modern influences.

There is a reason that some phrases, some ideas, can’t be translated from one language to another, there is no common frame to draw from.  There is no common belief to relate to.  There is no common philosophy which binds these two languages together.

When we attempt to distill human language down to common denominators, when we try to make all other languages subordinate to one, we lose more than we could ever realize.  We lose phrases that can not be expressed, we lose understandings which can not be shared, we lose cultures which see the world differently.

It’s a shame that the US does not teach second or third languages from birth.  It’s a shame we live in such an overwhelmingly mono-linguistic society.

If you are multi-lingual, I would beg that you teach that to your children.  If you have a chance to learn another language, jump at it!  If you could preserve the diversity of language in the world, you can help preserve the diversity of cultures, too.

Imagine if you couldn’t read this post…


The painful irony is that I wouldn’t be able to.  I know less than the most basic Spanish, I know a few smattering words in Swedish and Hebrew.

And when I come across pages written in other languages, even other writing systems, I always wonder what it says, what I’m missing by being unable to understand.  I wonder if perhaps some beautiful wisdom or humorous anecdote  is lost to me because I know only one language.

Of course, I speak English, 95% (if not more) of the internet is open to me.

But what if it wasn’t?

I can’t help but imagine if I was denied the vastness of this body of human work because I couldn’t understand it.  Because I wonder if, in that 5% that is closed, there may hide some marvelous revelation that I have missed.

Or maybe it’s just more cat pictures.

I don’t know.


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If they really wanted to defend marriage, they should have tried outlawing divorce.

Otherwise, no one has yet adequately explained how one couple’s marriage has any affect on another couple’s marriage in any way.

Well, unless they’re swingers… but pretty sure DOMA didn’t outlaw that, either.

Given the name, things I WOULD have expected the Defense of Marriage Act to actually address:

Marriage counseling (as, of course, a free, tax paid initiative to prevent divorce)
Financial counseling (as finances are one of the major reasons for divorce still, I believe?)

Because really, if what you’re after is to defend the “Biblical” definition of marriage, then the following are all legal and moral:

Marriage to your half sister (Abraham and Sarah)
Sex outside of marriage to your wife’s handmaiden (Abraham and Hagar)
Marriage to your wife’s sister (Jacob, Rachel, and Leah)|
Sex outside of marriage to your wife’s handmaidens reinforced (Jacob, Bilhah, and Zilpah)
Marriage to the girl you raped, but only if she wasn’t already engaged (Deuteronomy)
Marriage to the daughters of the people you just defeated/killed in battle (Deuteronomy again)
Marriage to 700 wives (and 300 concubines) (Solomon)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to hold the Bible up to modern moral standards, only pointing out that modern moral standards are more often not found in the Bible.

In fact, the only place where the bible actually dictates that a man should have only one wife is in the New Testament letters, and specifically for church leaders, not applied to all laymen.  The idea that marriage is between only one man and one woman, that they choose one another themselves, and that it has anything to do with love is a rather modern concept, certainly not the ‘Traditional’ nor the ‘Biblical’ definition of the word.

The traditional definition of marriage is much closer to:

One man, and as many women as he wishes and is able to afford, purchased from their father like property, or arranged by the parents of the couple, often without the couple having ever seen one another prior to the wedding.  Whereafter the woman is now considered the man’s property.

And while that is certainly far more historical and traditional, it really comes down to: marriage was defined by the cultures in which it existed, and there is no *one* traditional definition.  In some cultures, homosexual marriage really was allowed.  In some cultures, a woman could take more than one husband.  In some cultures, marriage for love was celebrated.  But not in all.  There is no *one* definition of marriage to be changed.

So really?  All those people who whine about who is changing traditional definitions are doing far more to change the traditional definition themselves.

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Indigenous people.  There can be no argument – let me rephrase:  no *serious* argument – that they have gotten just about the worst end of any stick that ever was.

But wait… everyone is indigenous somewhere, right?  I mean, I’m not dismissing the genocide and other attrocities that have been perpetuated on Native Americans, Australian Aborigines, New Zealand Maori, Mayan tribes, Sami and Inuit peoples… the list literally goes on.

But the term indigenous seems to be… a bit… disingenuous.  EVERYONE is part of an indigenous people group, indigenous somewhere.  If you want to really argue semantics, the whole of the human race is indigenous to Africa (though Neanderthals seem to throw the monkey wrench in those works).

Okay, point is, when people discuss the issues of indigenous peoples, it always makes me stop and think, wait… if I’m not from here, where am I from?  Here being, of course, the only place on Earth I’ve ever known.  I’m not part of the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest.  The closest I can get to that distinction is my brother in law.

(as an aside, have you ever stopped and realized, the Pacific Northwest is Canada’s Southwest?  Kinda blows the mind, don’t it.)

My grandparents’ parents from one branch came from Sweden.  I am not indigenous to Sweden.  I’ve never seen the country, I don’t know the language (however similar it is to English) and I know even less about the culture itself.  I don’t know what the traditional dress or folk songs are.  Ethnically I have some Swede in me.  I am not Swedish, however.

I have a bit more Irish/Scottish in me, but see above: I don’t know Gaelic, nor have I ever been to Scotland or Ireland, nor do I know anything about them beyond the typical (or rather, stereotypical) haggis, St. Patrick’s Day, kilts, and whiskey.

I have some ethnic roots in Ireland/Scotland, though the Scottish side I believe is actually Dutch, and then the Dutch were really just the Norse who settled there, and the Norse… And hell, the Norse settled Sweden, too, so I’m Norse.  Where did they come from?

I mean I could say yay, Thor and Loki and mead and Vikings and long boats… surely THOSE are mine, right?  I mean, I know a little bit about them, right?  Well, I at least know enough to roll my eyes at the Marvel movies (enjoyed them, though I did) because they completely messed up the mythology of the characters and why on earth were Norse gods skipping around New Mexico, of all places!?

But no, I know something about the Norse, but it’s all academic and trivia.  I may be ethnically Norse, but I don’t I belong to the Norse culture, nor does it belong to me.  It’s someone else’s culture that I am interested in because if you go far enough back in my family tree you’ll run into people who *were* culturally Norse… but that still doesn’t make it mine.  Not MINE mine.  Not something I feel and identify with.

Because I’m from here.  This is my home.  This is the only place I’ve ever known.  This is where I was raised, where I recognize the seasons not by the calendar but by the garden, where I know the names of the creeks and can recognize the trees and flowers and animals, and know when to expect the hummingbirds and the elk.  This is where I understand the relationship between the snow in the mountains and the river in summer.  This is where I take my shoes off and walk the earth.  This is where the sun and the rain know where to find me, and where I understand how the society around me works.  (or rather, I don’t, but I make a better pretense of it.)

This is the only place I know.

I recognize the pain that my brother in law has faced in his life, the pain his people have felt in being pushed into reservations, in having their culture destroyed, their children taken away, their language outlawed, their land stolen.

I recognize I live on land that shouldn’t be mine.  I recognize I live next to the indigenous people who were put on reservations to ‘make room’ for those who came before me.

I recognize there are people who believe I have no right to be here.  This isn’t my home.  This isn’t where I belong.

There are people who love to spew the old “Go back to Africa” or “Go back to China” or whathaveyou racist nonsense.  Rightfully, I could be the object of such hate, but where would I go back to?  Where *do* I belong?

If not here… where?

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To be fair, that last one – Grace Kelly @ADobTrack – does have a point.

After all, I’m highly upset that SHE is commenting on who sings the United States National Anthem. Clearly from Europe…


Seriously, people? Are we really still doing this?

No More Race

I swear I think some people need to be required to get a license to use the Internet. Following the Internet ugliness over the Cheerios commercial that dared show a mixed family, the Internet racists went crazy when a Latino kid, an Hispanic-American, sang the national anthem at the 3rd game of the NBA Finals.

Racist Tweets

And there is plenty more where that came from as you can see here.

But the kid and his family responded with class to the whole thing, pointing out that he IS an American, from San Antonio actually. And kudos to the Spurs for bringing him back last night to stick it to those idiots by having him sing the anthem all over again. Only thing better would have been if he also held up a box of Cheerios at the end.

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Because it seems like a lot of people still don’t understand the word, I’d like to explain.


Gay is *not*:

Stupid, lame, undesirable, effeminate, butch, less than, harmful, something to be feared, a choice, an insult, a burn, a political stance, a religious stance, flamboyance, a style of speech, a manner of walking, hugging your best friend, showing emotion, touching the same gender, experimenting with the same gender, playing with traditionally ‘other’ gendered toys, dressing in traditionally ‘other’ gendered clothing, having a body that does not conform to a socially defined sex, having a mind that does not conform to your biological socially defined sex.


Gay does *not equal*:

Child molester, everyone after a few drinks, gender, sex, harassment, transgendered, transvestite, rape.


Gay means:

A sexual orientation, attraction to the same gender.


Things that can’t be gay:

Music, movies, tv shows, commercials, haircuts, clothes, expressions, school, tests, work, things you don’t like, things you don’t agree with, things, situations (unless there is actual, complicit, desired same-gender activity occurring).


Things that can be gay:

People who are attracted to the same gender, situations where same-gender attraction stuff is going on.  Gay pride parades are, unquestionably, gay.  🙂


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We’re always reminded in one way or another to appreciate what we have before it’s gone.  Sometimes we get the reminder in quite unexpected ways.

I’ve been working on a story in which the main character is experiencing a world where modern life has collapsed, electricity is gone, etc.  She knows just enough to get by for now, but winter is on its way and she isn’t sure she’ll survive.  In the midst of all this, she’s hanging her laundry outside and singing when she realizes she’s forgotten the next line of the song.

And she has no way of finding it again unless she can simply remember it.

There are no computers, no smart phones, no apps that she can look the lyrics up on.  She realizes in that moment that for all she knows, what she’s forgotten is forgotten forever.  For all she knows, no one else remembers it, either, and those words are lost to time.  This should be an entirely insignificant moment in her life, given all that she’s facing, but for her, it’s devastating.

It is this moment that prompts her to sit down and start writing out as fast as she can everything she can remember and doesn’t want to forget.  Every scrap of lyric, poem, saying, story, history or myth, anything she can bring to mind she writes down because in the whole of her small world, she has become the keeper of all that has been, of all that has come before.

The more we move towards computers being our connection to all that there is, the more we risk losing if that technology should ever fail us.  Perhaps not to the extreme that my story shows, but especially with so much music being downloaded, the lyrics aren’t conveniently printed on the inside of the CD cover any longer.  There isn’t a booklet inside the tape case or record sleeve.  There is a lot we may very well lose, to some degree, if we ever lose our modern technology.

It makes me want to breathe new life into the customs of storytellers, of minstrels and bards, of those who memorized or kept vast quantities of songs and stories to tell, passed on from one generation to the next so that it would not be lost.

It makes me want to start a written folder called “The Fall of Technology” and keep all my favorite songs and pictures tucked inside, “just in case.”

In my story, she does end up remembering the line she forgot.  Writing it down manages to bring it to mind and she gets at least that one song out fully.  But how many more has she forgotten?  In my story, she feels the weight of every word she’s missed.  There is a quote from a National Geographic that talks about an age where the entire language of a people was in the vocabulary of the best story teller.  A time before dictionaries.  A time when a word forgotten was lost forever.

Perhaps it isn’t as tragic as losing that last chance to make amends, or tell someone you love them, or the loss of a species… but maybe if we realize that even the small things can be gone before we realize it, then we’ll be more attentive to the big, important things in our lives, too.

Do something today that needs to be done, don’t put it off until it’s too late… you never know when it might be gone forever.

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I am likely one of the few women in the history of this world who actively wants to turn 60.  If I was offered the chance to turn 60 tomorrow, I might well take it if not for the fact that many of the reasons I want to be 60 would be lost in that 25 years I’d be skipping.

I want to turn 60 because while other girls dreamed of being the princess, I wanted to be the old, wizened, grandma woman living in the woods who the young princess or prince or king or peasant never listened to, but she always turned out to be right.

I want to be the woman that children come to for advice because nothing they could possibly say would shock me, but many things I might say would shock them, and for that they’d listen in wide-eyed wonder as I recounted days gone by, or the way their parents acted at their age, or how to make Fairy cookies to make wishes come true.

There aren’t many things that I equate with success in life that aren’t likewise exemplified in the woman usually labeled as ‘witch’.  Despite not being wiccan or pagan or any such religion, still the concept of the witch in the woods is very appealing to me.  The old woman living on her own in a rustic cottage in the trees, in much greater harmony with the world than those living around her.

Natural medicines, healthy cooking, and many cats and other critters serve to round out the mental image of perfection that accompany the wisdom and wrinkles.  Of course, this mental image exists in a far more mythical European setting than is generally practical or possible in modern day America.

When I turn 60, I will no longer have a mortgage.  When I turn 60, I hope I will have children and grandchildren at last.  When I turn 60, I hope I will actually know who my neighbors are.   When I turn 60, I hope I will at last have the time to devote to these dreams.

So I guess really what I want to be is known as a person who helps others, who has both medicine and advice to give, but both only in very small doses.  I want to be the person that people come to because I haven’t lost the art of cooking and sewing and working hard with my hands and bless the dirt that is on them!

I suppose I really don’t have to wait until I am 60 to achieve those things.  But I think the wrinkles would definitely help things along.

I suppose what I really wonder is, by the time I turn 60, will I still be needed?  I am torn between wanting to be, and hoping I won’t be.  I want the world to have gained wisdom, health and contentment by then, but I fear it won’t.  In which case, I want to be wise, healthy and content so I can teach those around me.

Well, I have 25 years to find my way there.  I hope I arrive on time.

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How many people does it take to have a culture?  Can I be my own?  Can I observe things that no one else observes, or celebrate in ways no one else celebrates?  Can I look at the world differently and find value in my own art and creations?  Can I be a culture unto myself?

I’ve thought about this more and more as I realize I belong to no culture but one I really don’t care for at all and don’t really fit into anyway.

So what will it mean to be a culture of one?  Well, first, it *doesn’t* mean I can’t share anything with anyone.  My culture will be individual to me, but it will not be comprised entirely of unique elements – no culture is anyway.  It will be merely comprised of elements that I find meaningful; important.

That means there will be plenty of elements that, individually, I will share with many people, some elements I may share with only a few people, and of course, a few elements that will end up being at least mostly unique.

It also doesn’t mean that nothing will then ever change.  Culture is alive, or it isn’t at all.  The only static cultures are those which exist solely in the past now.  Culture exists to change, to grow and bend with the generations, and sometimes even within generations.  So merely having aspects which evolve with time does not make it somehow invalid.

Still, it will be lacking quite a bit from being only me.  Someday I hope to bring more people into my little culture through a spouse and/or children, (really, I’m more interested in children than a spouse anyway) but until then, I’ll spark a little candle flame in my soul and see where its light lands.

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Okay so I know I said this entry was supposed to be talking about the good things in America but first I want to talk about this because it’s been on my mind lately and I think I finally found a way to articulate it.

I know a lot of people today don’t realize how much damage we did and continue to do to a lot of people, cultures, and ethnicities.  We were taught in school that these things were in the past, they were done in a different time by different people.  That’s true, but that’s not really the point.  Some of it is *still* going on today, and some of it is still affecting today, and we can’t ignore that.

I’m not saying that any person is responsible for the actions of their ancestors, however recent.  Of course you aren’t, no one can be responsible for what someone else has done, even if you are related to them.  It isn’t fair to make anyone directly accountable for a crime committed by another person.

I am saying that we need to take responsibility for what happens now.  And this is the illustration I think best sums it up:  You may not be responsible for the hitting a person crossing the road with your car, but shouldn’t you take responsibility to help them?

This isn’t about laying blame but doing the right thing.  I don’t know if *my* direct ancestors ever did anything wrong.  I don’t know if they ever owned slaves, or ever massacred Native Americas, or ever showed prejudice toward anyone.  I don’t know if they did or didn’t – and that isn’t the point.  I’m part Irish, so for all I know my ancestors may have been slaves here, too!  That isn’t the point, either.  The point is there are people who did do these things, there are people who oppressed, enslaved, committed injustices, genocide, and other horrible things.  I’m not to blame for these things, but shouldn’t I – not as a “white person” but as both an American and a human being – be taking responsibility to help set things right?

Like in my illustration, maybe it wasn’t my car or me driving, but as a bystander, don’t I still have a responsibility to help people who are injured?

So that’s my view of it.  It isn’t about laying blame, just asking people to be responsible to set right what happened and is still happening today.

I know this is actually a shock to a lot of people, too.  I was raised believing that things like racism, discrimination, and the like were all things in the past, things we had already taken care of, things our nation had risen above, moved beyond.  Sure, I knew some people still harbored prejudices, but that’s always going to be the case.  What I didn’t know was how pervasive it still is, because it wasn’t where I grew up.

I lived in a diverse neighborhood, I grew up with friends of all colors and it never even occurred to me that it should be any other way, that it wasn’t the same everywhere.  I live in a pretty tolerant area.

When the internet allowed me to basically reach beyond where I lived and meet people and see people in larger cities or less diverse areas, I was shocked and sickened by some of what I heard.  I couldn’t comprehend the mindset of people to think or act in these ways.

I’ve been brought to silent tears on a number of occasions as my friend rather casually recounts her experiences growing up on and off the Res, and it just makes me sick.  It makes me angry.  It makes me feel so helpless to do anything about it, either.  But I’m trying, and hopefully things like this can help make a difference.

To everyone who has ever wondered why we still have Affirmative Action; to everyone who ever gets angry that we still talk about slavery and the Native American genocide; to everyone who ever was raised to think that these things are decades or centuries in the past, the sad truth is they are not.  The sad truth is we still need to help balance the scales.  The sad truth is even if you aren’t prejudice, you live in a country that still is.  Sometimes balancing the scales isn’t fair to the individual – you *are* paying for the mistakes of your predecessors – but it is a necessary sacrifice to help the whole.

And that kind of sacrifice for society is something American Culture is really bad at – it’s a time when we really need to look at other cultures and understand that sometimes the individual does need to step back a little and look at how we all are connected in so many ways.  To quote Spock (who was probably quoting someone else anyway) “The good of the many outweighs the good of the few or the one.” (yay, geek moment.)

Being so focused on the individual isn’t wrong, per se, but sometimes it can be short-sighted and harmful to many more.

So what can I do?  I’m still not really sure.  I can pay attention to political platforms, but if no one is talking about the problems it can be hard to decide who would do better with them.  So I guess the first thing that needs to be done is get people talking about it.  Get people aware that these problems are still real, still relevant, still exist today.  Get people to stop treating Affirmative Action as if it’s the problem – like everything would be okay without laws like that.  Get people to realize that even if the immigrants weren’t working in our fields, it doesn’t mean the out of work Americans would be!  (Because, you know, people who complain that immigrants take ‘our jobs’ wouldn’t stoop to doing those jobs themselves anyway.)

Just be aware, be conscious of it.  You don’t have to feel guilty or take it personally.  This is a problem with our society, and that means as a society we have to change.  That takes time.  I think we’re about half way there.  I think we’re finally reaching that tipping point where enough people born today are understanding this that eventually they will be the ones who by sheer numbers will make things better.  But half way in 40+ years means we still have a LONG way to go.  There are still a lot of prejudices out there to try to counter.   There is still a lot that society needs to do to really balance the scales.

What will *you* do?

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Part of what contributes to the general apathy and sense of absent culture in America is that very little of America’s culture actually means anything!

I realized this at last when watching a documentary about the rise of Ghost Dances among Native American/American Indian (please pick your preferred adjective) tribes.  These dances had profound meaning to the tribes who practiced them.

That’s what got me thinking about what anything in American culture means, and realizing it means nothing.  There is no spiritual aspect to our dances, there is no deeper heritage connected to our daily lives, our folk-tales no longer teach or warn but have been watered down and sterilized for the masses by Disney.  Even our holidays have limited historical context and are either highly commercialized or highly alcoholized.

Drive fast, shoot guns, buy shit, get drunk, and live happily ever after!  Fuck Yeah, ‘Merica!

Parts of the country have communities that share more among their neighbors than merely streets of address but there is very little depth to any aspect of uniquely American culture.

Even parts of it that aren’t unique have less depth for us than for others.  We have a pitiful voter turn-out rate.  I remember watching the news a few years back where people in Iraq brave IEDs, suicide bombers, and more just to cast their vote.  In the US, a heavy rain can keep someone from the polls.  Even among those who had to fight hardest to get the right to vote, there is a sad turn-out of voters.

Without any meaning to why we do some things, the things themselves become empty gestures, traditions without foundations.  No wonder so many people seek meaning elsewhere, from other places in the world.  There is nothing that American culture has to offer the spirit.

We have fast food outlets in hospital cafeterias while proposing laws regarding the size of our sodas and whether or not we can have table salt in restaurant dishes.  We are a culture that has embraced a certain level of daily insanity to the point that we can’t even see that it’s insane.

Meanwhile, I curl up in my 58 degree Fahrenheit house eating cold food with my fingers that society tells me should be eaten hot with utensils while discussing the insanity in our politics and social interactions, and am thus informed of how not normal I am (totally complementary, by the way) by those closest and dearest to me, leaving me to wonder what normal is for everyone else because this *is* normal for me, I don’t know any other way of living and thinking.

Sometimes we focus too much on what other people think.  Sometimes we don’t think enough of how other people will feel.  We play a strange balancing act between herd mentality and individuality.

We dress just like everyone else in the latest brands, then get upset if someone else is wearing the same thing we are.
We want to have the same stores available no matter where we go but we want everything packaged in single servings.
We go to the same restaurants but have ten caveats for every meal we order.

It used to be if you visited a different town, you had different stores, because stores were owned by people instead of nation-wide franchises.  If you wanted Bill’s Best Garden Tools you had to either be lucky enough to live near Bill’s town, have a relative in Bill’s town, or you had to travel.

Later we had Bill teaming up with Ted to bring Bill’s goods to Ted’s store in another town, Bill’s goods being popular enough to demand a greater supply and Bill being able to produce enough to supply a greater demand.  This was great, especially if the local Garden Tool guy’s goods weren’t very good quality, or maybe you just really didn’t like him.

Now you can travel not just town to town but state to state and find not only the exact same stores, but the store looks exactly the same, the building is built the same, the inside is laid out the same.

Sure, it’s nice I guess, but we’ve lost so much richness and creativity to this kind of universal conformity.  It means nothing we buy really means anything, either.  Half of it is disposable to begin with, and for all we value individuality we have almost nothing that is truly unique (and then we go to other countries and tell them to be just like us!)

So now we have useless traditions filled with meaningless objects and we can move anywhere and have all the things we’re used to and yet we belong nowhere.  And the more we’re forced to be the same the more we act out to set ourselves apart, the more we look to other cultures to find some sense of meaning and fulfillment because American Culture is rooted in being dissatisfied with what you have and who you are: you don’t make enough, you don’t own enough, you aren’t thin enough, your hair isn’t straight enough, your clothes aren’t new enough, your beat poetry isn’t edgy enough, and no one understands you!

So what?

Maybe the reason no one cares about American Culture is there’s a whole lot that isn’t worth caring about.  But there is some that is.  There are some beautiful, golden threads to be found in this vast American tapestry we have woven.   I think my next entry will be looking at some of those.

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