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Saturday, December 30, 2017

"The Shape of Water" 2017 Boring, Heavy-Handed, and Hypocritical

"The Shape of Water" is a simple-minded, heavy-handed, racist movie, blessed with terrific, retro 1950s-60s set design. White, heterosexual, Christian, American men are evil. The more unlike a white, heterosexual, Christian American man you are, the better you are. If a white, heterosexual, Christian, American filmmaker had made a film that depicts Mexicans or women as pure evil, and their opposite as pure good, that white man would have to do a major apology tour to get his career back.

"The Shape of Water" wants to be a progressive movie that bashes white men and elevates women and South American river gods. You've been really troubled by Hollywood's racist and sexist treatment of South American river gods, haven't you? In fact, though, "The Shape of Water" is sexist, too.

It stars forty-year-old Sally Hawkins, a serious actress who is not a great beauty. She plays Elisa Esposito, an Hispanic cleaning lady. Wow, you are thinking, this is great. A mature woman, a cleaning lady, the lead of a film! Any hope you had is dashed in the opening scene.

The film is about a minute old when Sally Hawkins removes all her clothing, appears full frontal naked, displays her A-list-quality assets, and performs a sex act on camera. Yeah, so much for elevating women. That she uses a kitchen timer to time her sex act is just an added bit of kink for the perverts in the audience. Oh, another thing. Elisa can't speak. So you get a silent, naked leading woman. What's not to like?

After turning his lead into just another porn star, Guillermo del Toro makes Elisa painfully boring. She doesn't do much of anything, other than clean, cower, and fall in love, without any motivation whatsoever, with an amphibious, anthropoid, Latino deity. She has no discernable personality. She is a poor, sad, victim. Screw that.

Elisa is surrounded by men who are movers and shakers: a crafty Russian spy, a gifted artist struggling to resurrect a formerly successful career, and an Amazonian river god whose touch can heal and who does to a pet cat what all cat-haters wish they could do to pet cats. Elisa mostly mopes and has sex with herself and aforementioned river god. Guillermo del Toro, please do all women a favor and stop making movies with female leads. Your male characters are much more dynamic and compelling.

The river god is held captive by Colonel Richard Strickland, a white, Christian, heterosexual, American man. Now, I know you have begun screaming and rushing the exits. Nothing is more terrifying than this creature. Strickland is completely unbelievable. He finds the river god. He tortures it, on camera. These scenes are not fun to watch, unless you are a sadist, and really have it in for Hispanic river gods.

Strickland wants to kill the river god. Does this make any sense to you? It made no sense to me. Elisa has no motivation for falling in love with the river god. Strickland has no motivation for hating it. Why would this man devote his life to becoming so skilled that he could capture a river god, and then spend all his time randomly torturing the river god and then killing it? Anyway.

Again, Elisa is pretty much of a nothing-burger, except for how good she looks naked. Lucky for her, she is surrounded by super competent, heroic men. One is a Russian Spy. This makes him virtuous because it is the Cold War and "Russian Spy" equals "opposite of American." One of the good men is gay. Being gay makes him virtuous because straight people are evil. These two do most of the grunt work of moving the creaky plot forward.

Oh, yes, and did I forget to mention this? There is a Magical Negro, played by, who else, eat-my-doo-doo Octavia Spencer herself. You know what this black woman gets to do to move the plot forward? She *speaks for Elisa.* That's right. That's it. She's a sign language interpreter. While white men – who are actually *good* white men because they are gay or Russian spies – move the plot forward, one woman gets to get nekkid and the other woman gets to provide subtitles. Oh, Mr. Del Toro, you are such a friend to women you should win an effing Nobel Prize.

Did I mention that the movie is boring? Once you get its message – that straight, white, heterosexual, Christian men are the embodiment of evil, and anyone not like them is pure – you just have to sit back and let that moral pound you in the head like a hammer, or like the flopping fin of an amphibious anthropoid river god being tortured by an evil white man.

What the movie has going for it: terrific set design. If you are into 1950s and 60s retro kitsch, this is your movie. There are vintage magazine ads, diner signs, cars, and clothes. The color green appears repeatedly. Evil white man eats green hard candies and drives a teal Cadillac. Good gay man eats lime Jell-O pie. You get the idea. Pretty quickly. After that, the movie has nothing to offer.

Coco 2017 Adorable, Gorgeous, and Anti-Christian

"Coco" is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen. It's a feast for the eyes. I don't think there is a single scene where fluorescent orange, purple, and lime green are not onscreen at once, complementing each other beautifully. The songs are enjoyable and well sung. Each character is fully realized. Miguel Rivera, a little boy, is the lead. He is adorable to look at and charmingly played by newcomer Anthony Gonzalez.

The plot is a bit complicated and I'm not sure that children would understand it. The theme is an adult one: how do you balance love of family and tradition with innovation and self-actualization? I'm not sure kids would fully grasp that, either. But there is enough onscreen business – chases, animals, and costumes – to keep children entertained. The plot has much in common with "The Wizard of Oz." A child travels to an otherworldly realm, and is accompanied by an earthly companion who is transformed into a magical creature in that realm. The child faces dangers and learns lessons he can apply once he returns to normal life.

I was deeply moved by the movie. I had tears running down my face during the final segment. The plot twists astounded and gratified me. This film had more of a plot than many an adult movie I've seen recently.

Yes, "Coco" is an anti-Christian movie. Though it takes place in Mexico, I could not find any vestige of Catholicism in the film. I may have blinked and missed it. "Coco" creates both life in a Mexican village and a Mexican afterlife, and I saw no churches. There was a place named "Santo" something – that was the only sign of Catholicism I caught. 

There are many signs of Aztec belief. Skulls are everywhere, as they were in monumental Aztec architecture and in images of Coatlicue, the Aztec goddess. Chrysanthemums, the Aztec flower of the dead, are also omnipresent. A very bad character has a very Christian name. I can't say more so as not to reveal any plot twists. And "Coco" presents its own, pagan-inspired afterlife. Spirits remain "alive" as long as someone on earth places their photograph on a pagan altar called an "ofrenda." After that, they really die. And spirits are accompanied by alebrijes, brightly colored chimeras. Aunt Imelda's alebrije is a winged, horned, jaguar.

Christian parents should allow their children to see this beautiful film, and should discuss it with their children afterward.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

December 27, Fire and Ice: Paterson to Garret Mountain

Fire on McBride Avenue Extension. Building appeared to be an old textile mill, but I am not sure. I wonder if bums did not make a fire to keep warm in the bitter cold. The wooden beams in these textile mills are massive. I think of the trees that produced such lumber. I think of American ambition. Now nothing but ashes. 

The horse approached me eagerly. I had to inform him that I had no carrots. He then rapidly turned his butt to me and stood that way for some time. I scratched and patted his butt. He did not object. 

Ice needles. 

A house with Christmas decorations on Preakness Avenue. Preakness Avenue is increasingly Muslim / Bangladeshi. I wonder how much longer there will be Christmas decorations there. 

News coverage of the fire here:

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Me, Too. Asterisk. That Asterisk Makes All the Difference

Me, Too. Asterisk. That Asterisk Makes All the Difference.

Why Some Survivors of Workplace Harassment Will Not Appear on TIME's Cover Any Time Soon

On December 6, 2017, TIME magazine named "The Silence Breakers" TIME's "Persons of the Year." The asterisk on my story guarantees that it is unlikely that I or anyone like me will ever experience the vindication, camaraderie, or admiration that TIME's survivors may be experiencing now.

On October 19, 2017, the New York Times published Lupita Nyong'o's account of her history with Harvey Weinstein. Nyong'o's piece described, in clinical detail, a series of encounters that might be ominous, foreboding some future assault, or merely evidence of personal crudeness, like his pressing Nyong'o to consume vodka and diet soda pop, an icky mixed drink that she refused.

I saw myself as if in a mirror in Nyong'o's superbly written piece. I recognized how those subject to harassment think and how we write. Noticing every detail. Examining it to understand if it should have made us as nervous as it did. Excoriating ourselves for not being as bold and decisive as we should have been. Archiving each memory in discrete, photorealistic files.

On November 22, 2017, the Times published critic Wesley Morris' "Who We Don't Talk About When We Talk about Weinstein." Morris confessed that he felt "utter ardor" for actress Annabella Sciorra, who had made her mark in the early 1990s. Sciorra, he wrote, could "put the feelings you want to see from an actor … right there on the surface."

Sciorra alleges that Harvey Weinstein raped her and undermined her career. Rosie Perez, Sciorra's friend, said that Sciorra had been "riding high, and then she started getting reclusive. It made no sense. Why did this woman, who was doing hit after hit, all of a sudden fall off the map? It hurts me as a fellow-actress to see her career not flourish the way it should have." Morris, Sciorra's fan, penned a eulogy for a living person. What art would Sciorra have given the world had she not been crippled by her own trauma and Weinstein's sabotage? 

I've had the same thoughts about myself. What if I had never gone to Indiana? Who would I be? What would I have accomplished?

Before I went to Indiana, and was harassed, I jogged five miles a day. I was a world traveler who had ridden a motorbike through African jungle and trekked in the Himalaya. After Indiana, I lost my life savings, I lived through years of rock-bottom poverty, and, since Indiana, I have not traveled as I used to. If I had never gone to Indiana, I would still be able to hear, as I once could. I would not need a cane to walk. 

In 1994, I traveled to Indiana to do a PhD. I had previously been a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa and Asia, and a teacher in the inner city. I recognized academia as the manufacturer of truth. I further recognized that people like me were lied about in this truth factory. Several aspects of my identity – white skin, Catholic faith, Polish heritage, immigrant history, my work life lived paycheck-to-paycheck – were distorted and weaponized in academia. Being white meant being a recipient of evil power and privilege. Being Catholic meant being an oppressive obscurantist. Being working poor meant that I was a seething cauldron of resentment, requiring constant policing by my betters lest I spontaneously break into my preferred leisure-time hobbies, a lynch mob or a pogrom. I was told, in academia, that I could not be Polish because I can read. I recognized that the highly developed stereotype of Polaks that academia cherishes is very similar to an All-American stereotype: that of the white-trash redneck.

I was a resistance fighter down behind enemy lines. I wanted to take control of the printing press churning out The Truth. I wanted to tell a different truth, one in which working poor whites – Polish or Appalachian – are not the monsters we are depicted as in films like Deliverance and The Deer Hunter. I had begun this mission at UC Berkeley. There I organized a presentation. One of my invited presenters, Eileen O'Malley Callahan, was the waitress granddaughter of an Irish immigrant ditch-digger. She presented "Tonya Harding Goes to Berkeley." Callahan spoke about how the academy obsesses on race and gender, while imposing silence, or even self-betrayal, on its own working-class students. This made her feel that "I'm being told to swim while the lifeguard holds my head under water."

Not many poor whites try to do a PhD. It is a huge financial drain. There are fellowships, but no one was handing out fellowships for people working on my topic. One of my kinder advisors told me to abandon my project. "You will never get a job, or funding. Write about Africa. You lived in Africa. You speak an African language." But everyone was doing Africa and other trendy topics. I wanted to write about reviled men and women who lacked champions.

I received an assistantship. That covered tuition and offered a stipend. I went to work for a professor – Professor A., for "Anonymous." There were warning signs right away. I struggled to work around Professor A.'s "idiosyncrasies." I had been working for a paycheck since I was 14. I was used to being the low man on the totem pole and doing what needed to be done to make my boss happy.

I got a phone call. My father was dying. I asked Professor A. for permission to take time off to visit my father's deathbed. "No," I was told. "I need you to type up the program for a conference."

I felt myself shredding, skin ripping from muscle, muscle ripping from bone. That night I did something I've never done before or since. I broke glasses against the pavement. Then, of course, I swept up and discarded the jagged shards. We Polish girls do not leave messes.

I wanted so badly to write the dissertation that would vindicate my dad and others like him. I needed money to do that. Professor A.'s assistantship, that I had had to struggle to receive, underwrote my work. But I wanted to write this work for my dad, and he was dying. I had to see him.

Just as my train was pulling in to Manhattan's Penn Station, my dad, in New Jersey, was breathing his last. I attended the funeral, and traveled back to Indiana.

Professor A. harassed me for missing four workdays to attend my father's funeral. And that's all I'm going to say here. I will not detail the harassment.

I put up with for as long as I could. I kept reminding myself: You have no power. Your boss has all the power. If you speak up, you will not be believed. If you speak up, you will be the problem, not your boss. If you speak up, you will lose this chance to say what you need to say in your published work and future career. You endure ugliness now so you can achieve a worthy end. You will change things for the better for everyone.

One day, after the semester ended, after the campus emptied out and Christmas approached, I just couldn't stand anymore. I began to pack my things in cardboard boxes. Professor A. had won whatever sick game was being played. I lost my father. I lost my dream. I lost my self-worth.

I wanted to create at least one bright spot. I would tell someone. Maybe that someone would do something with the information, and make the world a better place, for whatever graduate student had to work for Professor A. in the future.

I told my story to a kindly dean I had previously met at a wine-and-cheese reception. I began to cry. I had never cried so hard in my life before that moment. I have never cried so hard since. These wrenching sobs may or may not be responsible for my subsequent health problems.

The dean said, "You can't leave. You are not Professor A.'s only victim. The others are afraid to speak. They might lose funding or standing. You have nothing. So, you have nothing to lose. You must speak, to make this campus safer for others." I was told that Professor A. had "almost killed someone." That Professor A. was a "sociopath." That I alone could stop this.

For the next six months, I was sent to a number of campus officials. These were important, powerful men and women in hushed, sumptuous offices. My testimonies began in the darkest days of winter and continued till the long evenings of spring. I confronted these officials alone. They demanded that I recount, in detail, everything that happened. When I finished, they dismissed me coolly, offering me no hint of how my words had affected them. I was also a first year PhD student, taking a full load of coursework, writing papers I would later publish.

One day I found I could not walk down a hallway whose floor was freshly laid in high-contrast tile. Other days, I heard popping sounds in my ear. My eyes began to dart, uncontrollably, back and forth – this is called nystagmus. I found it hard to see and impossible to do what graduate students do – read or write. Some days I could not stop vomiting. Unable to assimilate even a glass of water, I required hospitalization and intravenous rehydration. My weight dropped rapidly. Some days, for days at a time, I could not move.

I didn't know it at the time, but my inner ear had ruptured. I was disabled for the next six years. I applied for SSDI. In spite of testimony from doctors, the judge who heard my case turned me down. He was removed from the bench for discriminating against women applicants. His removal did not help me. I could not work and I was penniless. I would eventually receive three pro-bono surgeries. Finally, doctors recognized that my ear could not be saved and it was "killed" using gentamicin, an ototoxic drug. I am now deaf in the ear, and I lack bilateral vestibular function, but I no longer suffer from vomiting, overwhelming vertigo, or nystagmus.

After the final surgery, I completed the dissertation I dreamed of writing, Bieganski, the Brute Polak Stereotype. It became a prize-winning book.

What caused the inner ear rupture? For some with ruptured inner ears, the cause of the injury is deep scuba diving or exposure to a loud noise. Me? I think it was the wrenching sobs I cried in that dean's office, but I can only guess. No, the professor who harassed me did not take a baseball bat to my ear. But I doubt that I would have developed the problem without the stress of the harassment combined with the extended testimony.

Here is the asterisk to my story. The professor who harassed me and others was not a man. She was a woman. A black woman. And that's why, I was told again and again, everyone was so afraid to speak up. "We are afraid to be called racist. We are afraid to be called sexist."

WNYC, the NYC metro NPR affiliate, has broadcast commentaries exploiting the Me-Too movement to monger hostility to whiteness and maleness, to what they call "the patriarchy" and "structural racism." "This is so emblematic of all of these kinds of circumstances where these white male predators have created these microcosms of, sort of, the country at large, which is systemically racist, systemically patriarchal," said WNYC's Rebecca Carroll.

In the comments section, listeners pointed out that anyone, of any gender or skin color, can abuse power. Most of Bill Cosby's accusers were white. This truth was denounced as "vitriol" by Francesca Rheannon, an NPR freelancer. Anyone who didn't board the "blame white men" train was labeled part of a "backlash" that "always arises when people of color – and in this case women of color – clearly express how they have been subjected to racism … these small minded commentators are so unwilling and unable to step outside of their self referential bubble to consider the damage that has been done to our society by pervasive racism and sexism. It has led directly to the disastrous leadership we have at this very moment at the head of our country that is bringing us to ruin."

This exploitation of the Me-Too movement to further irrational hostility to men is inaccurate. It has been reported in the press that Charlie Rose had female enablers. Charlie Rose's assistant, Yvette Vega, acknowledged that she enabled Rose's abuse of other women. Harvey Weinstein allegedly used a "honey pot" technique to lure naïve victims. He would summon aspiring actresses to meetings made to appear safe by the presence of one of his female employees. He would then dismiss the female employee and be left alone with his prey. At least one female employee appeared to acknowledge that she knew of this strategy, although the Weinstein Company staff later issued a statement denying knowledge. The New York Times identified Weinstein's "Complicity Machine." Weinstein was enabled by many other people, some of them female.

Too, I knew women, both grad students and professors, who used their sexuality to advance their careers. As one of my well-endowed friends put it, "I'm going to ask [a powerful professor] for funding today so I'm wearing a low-cut blouse." I know a man who was in charge of multimillion dollar purchasing at a high-tech company. Women venders would say to him, in a suggestive manner, "I would do anything to get this contract." It takes a village to harass a victim, and all too many of those villagers are women themselves.

"Yes, but," Politically Correct persons insist to me, "your experience was a freak accident. It is not analogous to the Me-Too movement. Women are victimized by men in a system called the patriarchy. They suffer from misogyny. In your case, as a white female victim of a black harasser, there is no analog to patriarchy or misogyny. Perhaps your harasser was emboldened by an affirmative action mentality on the part of her enablers, but affirmative action is good and necessary. That there was one white roadkill in this overall noble march toward progress is an unfortunate but necessary side effect. To make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs."

Let's examine these assertions.

In several respects, Professor A. was analogous to other harassers. Abusers, if confronted, attack the character of their accuser. "My accuser cannot be trusted because I am a high-status person and my accuser is a low-status person. My accuser can't be trusted because I have many allies and my accuser stands alone."

Professor A. was shrewd when she chose me as her victim. I was new in town. I had no local contacts to stand up for my character, while she had intimidated important people on a major campus. I was financially desperate. I was ambitious. I was dependent on her job to achieve my dream. She was up to her eyeballs in funding from national foundations eager to festoon their webpages with their support for "diversity."

But there is more than Professor A.'s strategic choice in victims that makes my story emblematic of Me-Too. We can acknowledge that African Americans, as a group, are poorer and less well situated in comparison to whites as a group. But university campuses are not American culture as a whole. Academia is a microcosm, and in that microcosm whiteness is demonized and to be poor and white is to be not only demonized, but punished, in concrete ways.

No, Professor A.'s career was not the result of any official, on-the-books affirmative action quota. The affirmative action that benefitted Professor A. was de facto, not de jure. University officials spelled out to me again and again that she was treated with kid gloves because she was a woman and because she was black.

Is the de facto affirmative action that cocooned Professor A and imperiled her bruised victims an otherwise noble march toward progress? The assertion that affirmative action is an unalloyed benefit to American blacks has been interrogated, not just by whites, but by blacks, as well. Significant facts render the assertion suspect.

Sheryll Cashin, herself an African American woman and law professor at Georgetown, is author of the 2014 book Place, Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America. Affirmative action operates primarily on the basis of skin color without reference to economic class. For this reason, Cashin argues, affirmative action benefits middle class blacks who need it least, not those poor blacks in generational poverty who need it most. It achieves "a skin color diversity that does not mitigate segregation, wealth disparities or other serious structural disadvantages that are causing opportunity hoarding in access to selective colleges."

Law professor Kevin Brown argues that an influx of black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa has made it more likely that non-native-born blacks will benefit from affirmative action. "As David Leonhardt put it in the New York Times, 'low-income students, controlling for race, receive either no preference or a modest one, depending on which study you believe.' In other words, affirmative action is now another upper-middle class benefit," said former Department of Justice employee Lloyd Green in the Daily Beast.

Professor A. was decidedly not representational of the kind of person affirmative action is meant to uplift. Professor A is wealthy and successful. To my eyes, she appeared to live an almost Disney princess lifestyle. My mother was a cleaning woman and factory worker who had had to quit school to support her siblings after her father developed emphysema in the coal mine. My father was a child coal miner who never finished elementary school. He was an adult manual laborer whose last job before he died was carrying rich men's bags in a country club.

The most damning criticism of affirmative action is that, not only has it not significantly helped the poor blacks it is meant to help, it has actually harmed them, in three distinct, measurable ways. First, it has placed blacks in academic environments for which they are not prepared. Richard H. Sander argued in the Stanford Law Review that affirmative action may have depressed the number of black lawyers. Blacks were admitted to top-flight law schools where, unprepared, they were more likely to fail. Had these same blacks attended less prestigious law schools, they would be more likely to have succeeded, and joined the ranks of lawyers.

Affirmative action, Marie Gryphon argues in a Cato Institute paper, increases stereotype threat – it makes blacks feel more insecure about their academic performance. Most punishing of all, affirmative action sets in motion a ratchet effect. Top schools select top black applicants and simultaneously reject top white and Asian applicants. The end result is that the least prepared black students end up in the same, non-competitive college classrooms with the best prepared white and Asian students. The mismatch of student to academic environment makes failure more likely. The best solution is to fix high schools in low-income areas.

In short, empowered whites on university campuses have adopted a de facto and de jure affirmative action that has arguably not significantly helped, and has possibly harmed, the black underclass. Why do empowered whites persist with affirmative action? Because it makes them look good. By advancing Professor A., a woman they privately labeled a "sociopath," and by shafting her white victims, university officials could maintain a public façade of diversity and enlightenment. I compare this window-dressing affirmative action to the systemic "patriarchy" that allowed some male harassers to misbehave with impunity.

In the same way that misogyny makes it hard for women victims to come forward, an anti-white, specifically an anti-poor-white environment on campuses intimidates, silences and marginalizes white students who have been victims of injustice. Anyone who doubts that universities communicate an anti-white bias need only refer to various online archives; see, for example, Minding the Campus' clips here.

Anti-white bias is not class blind. The whites one must hate to be politically correct are poor whites, a.k.a. white trash, trailer trash, rednecks, hillbillies, crackers, Guidos and Polaks. Sociologists have published, at least since the 1970s, examinations of elites' claims that poor whites pose a specific threat to decent, enlightened, civilized society. Such studies argue that wealthy whites deflect criticism of their own racism by placing the entire onus on poor, disempowered whites. This process continues today. Poor whites are demonized as the real racist menace. Don't take my word for it – if you are Politically Correct you most certainly will not take my word for it.

Van Jones is a black man with unimpeachable leftist credentials. He worked for the Obama administration but was forced out after criticism by Glenn Beck and others. At the June, 2017, "People's Summit" in Chicago, Jones attempted to rouse in his leftist audience a spark of compassion for poor whites. Jones spoke of so-called "Deaths of Despair," that is the statistically significant and anomalous deaths of whites, often poor whites, dying of suicide, alcoholism, and drugs. Jones said that "White men are sometimes the punching bags of liberals … the pain was present and progressives were not." By this final comment, Jones was saying that progressives don't care about the pain of poor whites. This talk was part of Jones' year-long, post-2016-election crusade to get his fellow liberals to talk about poor whites as if we are human beings.

Jones' brief and innocuous comment urging progressives to experience compassion for "Deaths of Despair" was met with protest. Liberals were aghast that Jones would express compassion for poor, dying white people. "You're kidding. He didn't really say that, did he? What was context?" wrote one. Another liberal tweeted that one should not focus on whites' pain because of "the pain the black community always been facing." Another mocked that Jones was living in "the universe where problems don't exist until white people experience them." Attacks became personal. "Van Jones is lost." "Bye Van Jones. Adding to my used to admire list." "I used to have so much respect for you. You've been chipping away at that. Bigger chunks lately." "With allies like Van Jones who needs enemies?" One black man tweeted, "There's no evidence of any of this coonery." Another, "Oh, he coonin." In addition to being called a "coon," Jones has also been denounced as an "Uncle Tom." Others wrote: "Why is Van Jones always on a white apologist campaign?" After all, whites deserve to die. If whites are dying deaths of despair, "That's called karma." "Their lifetimes should be shorter because they're wicked." " I'm going to save my sympathy for someone else."

Jones, in spite of this criticism, continues to soldier on. In an October 2017 appearance on The View, Jones said, "I don't see Democrats … saying, 'Maybe we drew our circle too small'. I love that we are hugging LGBT and Muslims … but maybe we need to have a bigger hug and include some of those folks in Appalachia … When I listen to liberals when they are not on TV, trying to make it sound good, we are still mad … even at people who have no jobs, even people for whom our hearts should be broken, even coal miners who have black lung disease and are dying and Democrats haven't said anything about for years."

I am entirely familiar with the liberal refusal to feel compassion for poor whites. During the entire time I testified, I don't think I ever heard that most conventional of platitudes, "I am sorry for your loss." My father, his life, his death, and my grief were not even a footnote. The focus of the university: the chance that a powerful black woman might be spoken of in a less than laudatory way, and the consequences for IU if that were allowed to occur. The single most revolting thing I heard in this process was, "Well, you know, in slavery days they were not allowed to take time off after a family member died."

The speaker of this drek did not know, or care, that my people have a history of slavery, not just from medieval times in Muslim Spain, when Slavs were such standard cargo of human traffickers that we gave our name to the world in the word for "slaves." Not just to 1861, when serfs were liberated in Czarist Poland, but to the Nazi occupation that ended in 1945, during which a million and a half Poles were enslaved.

There is another feature I share with other victims of harassment. One of the many hideous sequelae of sexual harassment is the conflation of the identity of the victim with the crime of the victimizer. If the most memorable biographical detail you hear about a person is that he or she was raped, you always associate that person with a sex crime. If she isn't a whore, perhaps she is a man hater. Perhaps she is merely attempting to bring a good man down.

If I speak in public as a white victim of a black harasser, many listeners will hear me only as a monger of white grievance, as a low-level David Duke.

The above process is especially ironic. In fact, the puppeteers pulling the strings on the IU campus were not black. The powerbrokers in the plush offices to whom I testified, the "men and women behind the curtain," were white, both male and female. Professor A.'s blackness was merely their blackface, a politically correct façade.

My story is only an anecdote, not evidence, of the systematic denigration of poor whites on university campuses. But there is evidence. In July, 2016, in his Minding the Campus column, Princeton lecturer Russell K. Nieli summarized the work of Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and his colleague Alexandria Radford with the five-word phrase, "Poor Whites Need Not Apply!" Elite colleges, Nieli argues, display a "bias against lower-class whites." "Poor whites … are clearly not what most competitive private colleges have in mind when they speak of the need for 'diversity.'" Nieli suggests that elite colleges may as well be involved in "a plot to deny access to poor whites."

Anyone living through an experience like mine will strongly identify with Lupita Nyong'o, Annabella Sciorra, and other voices in the Me-Too movement. And anyone living through an experience like mine will recognize the differences between us. Rose McGowan does not have to explain basic vocabulary terms like "patriarchy" and "misogyny." As Eileen O'Malley Callahan made clear in her "Tonya Harding" piece, elites pressure us always to focus on patriarchy and misogyny. Political Correctness makes it very hard for us to talk about the anti-poor-white bias on American college campuses. It makes it very hard for us to talk about the injuries that de facto affirmative action policies have caused to poor whites. Just to tell my own story – whose retelling sickens me anew – I have to educate my audience in taboo realities. I have to risk being labeled a white supremacist of the pettiest kind. In that is my asterisk.

Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete, Bieganski, and the upcoming God through Binoculars.

 This essay appears at Front Page Magazine, here.

Friday, December 15, 2017

God through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery. Coming in 2018

God through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery, is available now from Amazon and also directly from the publisher 

"God Through Binoculars blew me away. Goska has written a truly unique and remarkable work – gripping, tragic, eclectic, powerful, and empowering."
Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin, Director, The Biblical Museum of Natural History, author, "The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom"

"A witty, provocative, and thoroughly engaging memoir about the difficulties of faith, the complexities of love, and the consolations often found in nature. Whether she's writing about hyenas or jihad, hitchhiking or the perils of political correctness, Goska is always interesting. I loved this book!"
Daiva Markelis, author of "White Field, Black Sheep"

"As unsparing as it is tender, this book is a high-octane lyric meditation by a larger-than-life soul. Amid a multitude of coincidences, controversies, and calamities, the reader is invited to laugh, grieve, ponder, take exception, and especially, take heart."
Claire Bateman, author "Locals: A Collection of Prose Poems" NEA grant recipient

"The great books about spiritual journeys never give you easy answers. They don't say 'Do these 10 things and you will find peace or faith or salvation.'  Goska knows this truth. She has lived this truth. As you read her beautifully written, witty, and inspiring book, you will find yourself not only following her journey, you will find yourself living your own journey."
John Guzlowski, author of "Echoes of Tattered Tongues" Montaigne Medal recipient

"An effortlessly wise voyage, not only into the human soul but also into some fundamentals of the Western tradition. Goska is a formidable writer, who combines sensitivity and kindness with extraordinary toughness, and her vigorous prose reflects this unusual combination. Her prose grabs you and does not let you go."
Dario Fernández-Morera, author, "The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise"
Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and Comparative Literature, Northwestern University

"This is a moving, inspiring, heartfelt expression of love, pain, and healing, skillfully written with equal amounts of grace and compassion."
Larry Dossey, MD, author "One Mind"

"Impossible to put down.  Goska is a true original, a gifted writer and an even more gifted spiritual explorer. Her previous book 'Save, Send, Delete,' like this one, displays a remarkable range of philosophical and religious knowledge, accompanied by profound insights that will stay with a reader long after they are encountered. Goska has packed more experience into each one of her years on this earth than most of us will in a lifetime. I urge you to give a look at this irresistible journey of faith in search of answers."
David Horowitz, "Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey"

Charles Ades Fishman, winner, 2012 New Millenium Award for Poetry

"Goska reminds every birder and nature lover that they are connected spiritually to the birds they see and the experiences they have outdoors. Our souls and hearts are refreshed and renewed by allowing ourselves to understand in some small way that we are connected to something in nature that is ancient and forever."
Don Torino, Naturalist for Wild Birds Unlimited and President, Bergen County Audubon Society

"I read 'God through Binoculars' the way I read everything that I am enjoying or that interests me, at increasingly breakneck speed. I finished it this morning and plan to begin again, reading more slowly and thoroughly for the subtler bits. The two writers this book reminded me of most were Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen. They also have an edginess and a sense of putting themselves out there without giving a damn what others think."
Julie Davis, author of "The Happy Catholic"

"Goska is a walker, an observer, a thinker. This pilgrimage-in-a-book reminds me of Paolo Coelho in its thrust and scope. But Coelho merely walked the camino – Goska walks the byways of the world, from rural Virginia to the wildernesses of Asia. Always questioning, always seeking, Goska shows us the profound in every living being, from hyenas to humans. If you are willing to accompany her on this journey, you will be changed yourself."
Brian Ó Broin, author of Thógamar le Gaeilge Iad, Professor of Linguistics and Medieval Literature, WPUNJ

"'God through Binoculars' is … complicated, just like the natural world Goska so compellingly describes; just like the spiritual insights she gleans from her own well-traveled life, marked by random encounters that may not be all that random. She is a committed monotheist who believes in evolution, but expresses annoyance with Darwinist absolutes. She is awed by Mother Nature, but recognizes the random cruelties that play out within the wilderness. Through her binoculars, she observes a world constantly in flux – shaped and reshaped by variables that somehow work together in unbelievable complexity. Because of that complexity, she is skeptical about any 'straight-line' redemption of life's disappointments by an all-loving God. Yet she believes that God is indeed all-loving, that her own burdens might not be lifted, but can be transmuted into blessings. If she can believe that, maybe even the greatest skeptics among us can, too."
Melanie Forde, author of "Hillwilla" and "On the Hillwilla Road"

"An inspiring and inspired read by one who has long since heard the music."
Kevin Di Camillo, author of "Now Chiefly Poetical," columnist at National Catholic Register

"Goska is brilliant with words, painting highly evocative pictures. She's unafraid to explore emotional, spiritual, and philosophical frontiers. She's been all over the world, learning about cultures from the inside. This book brings these gifts and experiences to bear on a personal journey to a place few readers know."
Karen A. Wyle, author, "Twin Bred"

Edward "Rusty" Walker, author of "Transparent Watercolor: How to Use the Direct Method to Achieve Radiantly Clear Color and Translucency in Your Paintings"

"Amazing. Ordinary situations brought to life. Observant, with a real wit. A pleasure to read!"
Brian Koral, blog reader

"A masterpiece. I couldn't put it down. Goska has an incisive mind, an insatiable curiosity, and a captivating writing style. As a veterinarian, I particularly appreciated her colorful and informative writing about the animals she has encountered in her adventurous life."
Dr. Morton A. Goldberg, Veterinarian and Project Gutenberg volunteer

"C.S. Lewis wrote in his great novel 'Perelandra' that though 'there seemed to be, and indeed were, a thousand roads by which a man could walk through the world, there was not a single one which did not lead sooner or later either to the Beatific or the Miserific Vision.' Goska is a pilgrim walking the roads of this world and trying her best to follow the Spirit as he leads her at each fork in the road toward that 'one Face above all worlds which merely to see is irrevocable joy.'"
Mark P. Shea, Author, "By What Authority?: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition"

"Goska is a true wordsmith, a writer you enjoy reading for the prose as well as the imagination and education. Moving from thought to thought and scene to scene in no obvious order, you later realize the grand plan underneath it all, the coherent worldview that shapes how she appraises her fascinating experiences. And unlike secular writers of similar works, she is able not only to be romantic about life's rich variety, but to ground it in the good God of revelation. That combination of orthodox faith, humorous observations of eccentric people and moments, and practical philosophy is rare in contemporary writing."
The Rev. Evan McClanahan
Sin Boldly Podcast

"You catch a monkey, they say, with trinkets in a wide-bottomed, narrow-necked vase. The monkey inserts his paw, and opens it up to capture his treasure. When he tries to withdraw his fist, he can either hold on to the trinkets or let them go and free himself.

Jesus invited, 'Leave everything you have, and follow me!' That might seem fairly easy for a pilgrim who can't afford her own car. But even the poor must surrender.

Goska's monastery journey is a meditation on the deliberate opening of hands. With the slow freeing of each finger, another trinket is jettisoned and a new perspective is revealed. Nature provides her window to the divine: indigenous fruit, a hawk's soar, and being arrested by an unlikely savior. This hero's journey ends where she began, but as a new person, with a new vision.

Goska is a bold spirit who has fine-tuned her soul to encounter grace in unlikely places. In the spirit of Flannery O'Connor, as well as the Beats, she is wonderfully refreshing. Her sensitivity to God's possibilities is awe-inspiring. Step beyond predictability and embrace one heck of a ride!"

Deacon Kevin McCormack, host, WABC radio, "Religion on the Line," Xavier High School principal, adjunct professor of theology at Molly College

"'God Through Binoculars' is a mesmerizing book. The primary narrative concerns the author's visit to a monastery, but this is interspersed with reflections on the habits of hyenas, the spiritual defects of Meso-American art (Goska seems to like the hyenas better), the Holocaust, and a host of other subjects. The satirical account of her visit to the monastery makes the book worth reading all by itself. Fierce, hard-won, deep-rooted piety breathes through the snark. In an age of cutesy, feel-good memoirs with easy answers, this is the real thing – a book that brings you in touch with the restless, passionate intelligence of its author and forces you to think in a fresh way about every one of the many subjects it addresses."
Edwin Woodruff Tait, writer, farmer, and consulting editor for Christian History magazine.

"Goska dares to ask the universally elusive questions: will any deity or doctrine fully suffice in this life? Is the duel beauty and brutality of nature and human interaction alone enough to fill our spiritual reservoirs? In examining the mysterious trifecta of God, the natural world and human industry, Goska illustrates how a truly benevolent God would want us to experience the brutality of life along with the transcendence of beauty. Time and again her words illuminate the agony AND the ecstasy of this life that ultimately inspire us towards love, awe and wonder. Goska's intellectual inquisition proves that the very acts of motion and inquiry are a kind of devotion all their own. "
Tina Schumann, "Two-Countries. U.S. Daughters and Sons of Immigrant Parents"

"Goska finds goodness and moments of beauty and synchronicity amidst a world of hurt and oppression. Kindness and serendipity give to her, and give to the reader as well, hope for the future and a sense of religious wonder and faith. Her passion for birds and the avian encounters – some downright magical – which occur at just the right moments in her experience offer tantalizing evidence of greater forces at work than can be explained by pure science or reason. Goska's book is provocative, in-your-face, and uncompromising – all the trademarks of the author herself. It is bracing to read strongly-held opinions backed up by facts and evidence instead of feel-good but unsubstantiated politically correct writing. "
Marc J. Chelemer, New Jersey birder

"All that Goska has done here is to give us a simple, straightforward account of a brief episode in her life. And yet she has captured something about the mystery of life and human interaction that is at once deep, moving, and universal."
Bruce Bawer, author, "Stealing Jesus"

"Goska takes the reader on a remarkable journey, first encountering the personal and political corruption of academia in the soul-crushing age of political correctness, and then finding escape and finally restoration of spirit. This is no harangue or political manifesto, but rather a compelling tale of exploration and growth from a natural storyteller that just happens to illuminate the intellectual and moral issues of our age."
Thomas Lifson, Founder and Editor, American Thinker, former Harvard professor of East Asian Studies