Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Making a difference?

So, I'm back at college.

On my freshman retreat--years ago, now--all of the freshman were given t-shirts that read:

'I am "Making A Difference"'

It struck me as odd that "making a difference" would be put in quotes. Was it sarcasm? Yeah, that class is "making a difference," alright.

I just couldn't figure it out.

Well, the "Making A Difference" phrase stuck. Every freshman retreater gets a t-shirt. I see a plethora of these t-shirts every day. And I wonder-- am I making a difference, or "making a difference?" Are my classmates making a difference, or "making a difference?"

One of my suitemates was in my room late into the night and she talked about her biggest fear. It wasn't public speaking. It was being forgotten.

She wants to be an elementary school teacher, but she thinks that maybe that's too insignificant, and people will forget her.

I said that nobody forgets their second-grade teacher. I understand the need to do something with your life that really will make a difference, and I understand the doubt that your chosen profession will be the venue for a cataclysmic change in the way that life IS.

And, to be honest, I don't see all of my classmates, or even most of my classmates, being the kind of people who will make a difference. There's a few who "make a difference."

Last year, early on in the fall semester, one of the freshmen got expelled for dealing cocaine. He went to prison and that was the last I heard of it. Imagine my surprise when I recognized him this year, an incoming freshman. Again.

Dealing cocaine in some of the most vibrant years of your life. That "makes a difference." Sure.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Proud to be an American?

I have always had a bit of a bone to pick with people who were born U.S. citizens, and particularly those who are not in military service for the US, who say that they are proud to be an American.

To me, it's like saying, "I'm proud to have blue eyes!" There are certain benefits to having blue eyes, but it's not my fault that I have blue eyes. I was born with blue eyes. (Not green, blue.) I didn't fight to have blue eyes, or earn my blue eyes, or win them.

But I'm sure glad that my forefathers left the UK and Hungary and wherever else they came from to come to America, the land of opportunities, both taken and missed. I like being American. America has perks.

And that brings me to another thing. Explaining your American-ness to a world that has a love-hate relationship with our gas-guzzling, war-on-terror, Disneyland-birthing country.

It's like Greg's brilliant post (and no, it's not just brilliant just because he quotes me) on people who modify their statement of Christian faith with "but I'm the cool kind." (Which usually means they drink.)

"I'm American, but I'm the cool kind" ...which probably means Communist.

Just kidding. I happen to be the closest thing to a Communist in my whole entire family, as I've said before, because I listen to NPR. Like Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball, arguably, I sympathize with dirty Reds. I've washed their socks before.

My friend Kris told me once about these Canadian kits that U.S. travelers buy, with little Canadian flags, so when these travelers go overseas, they will be popular, because everybody likes Canadians.

And it really bugged me. I'm not proud to be American, but I'm ok with staying American. I wouldn't be proud to be unAmerican or antiAmerican.

No, I'm not endorsing frat-boy Americana and all the dumb actions of Americans everywhere. (I even hate that there is no short way to say "U.S. Citizen," because I think the word "American" implies that citizens of the U.S. think they are the only Americans in the world.)

I think obnoxious tourists are singularly unpleasant. I think xenophobic people should stop being xenophobic. (I'm not sure exactly how to unxenophobe someone, though.)

But when I go overseas, I shall remain an American, in spite of all temptations to belong to other nations.*

And I highly doubt that REAL Canadians are so dorky as to carry around pocket-sized Canadian flags.

*(Gilbert and Sullivan quote, from HMS Pinafore.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Pagan's Nightmare

If you haven't heard of A Pagan's Nightmare, a novel by Ray Blackston, you should check it out.

Sartre said, "Hell is other people." Blackston's anti-hero, Larry/Lanny, might say, "Hell is evangelical Christians."

The premises of both the book and the book within the book are original. It's a sharp departure in style from Blackston's previous books. At its best, it reminds me of Vonnegut meets Heller. At worst, it reminds me of something I would write.

It's neither a bust nor brilliant--it's interesting, and I recommend reading it, especially if you ever feel as if marketed, political pseudoChristianity gets on your nerves.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Short Thoughts

1. I got tired of Gogol. (It's not a permanent thing, I'm sure.) I'd read Plato's Republic, but I'm afraid I'd want to go back to Gogol (very desperately) before I finished. And I have to finish things.

2. I am, irrevocably, not High School anymore. I am College. I suppose I have been Not High School for several years now, but there's nothing like High School Musical (which is, I suppose, also Not Like High School) to remind me that I am a college girl living in a college world. It hurts that my college bubble will shortly burst, but such is the nature of education in the United States.

3. The new Marple series adapted Ordeal by Innocence--a travesty, since that particular novel, a good one, is not a Miss Marple mystery at all--which brings to mind the psychological struggles of the innocent, especially in an unsolved injustice: the suspicions, the fear. But then the guilty are also usually affected by crime: the suspicions, the fear. So who is hurt worse by injustices? Does it matter who is perceived by fallible humanity as more or less at fault?


4. They're also making a new Oliver Twist. Now, why do I love this book? It is as complex as any old other Dickens novel (with perhaps the exception of Great Expectations) although it's fast-paced with an Artful Dodger, which Great Expectations is totally without.