Friday, May 05, 2006

Hope and Despair

Ugh! I suppose that I should first 'fess up in response to Kim's comment about having 'deep thoughts.' I think about the war and Darfur and global warming and all the rest in part because I do think of myself as a global citizen and a mother (hence deeply and profoundly invested in the future) but also because ocassionally I'm paid to do so as a college instructor.

I'm just an lowly adjunct (see the archives of Invisible Adjunct if you want to know more about the pain of adjuncting) but I have taught classes with titles like "Intro to global issues" and "Contemporary World Issues: Islam" and it becomes a habit to try to keep up the world. This semester I found myself disengaged from my Contemporary Issues: Islam class. I felt vaguely angry towards the class all the time. It took me a while to realize that I wasn't angry at the students. I'm angry about this administration, about the war, the timing, the preparation, the occupation, the neglect, the loss of life and limb. The utter destruction of America's reputation as a beacon of hope, human rights, civility, and justice.

I feel constrained to say such things before the class, no matter how well I could document them. Adjuncts have no tenure, no security, no long-term contracts. One disgruntled students complains to the Dean and you're out the door. So instead, I displaced my anger onto the class and taught with a more distant, impatient manner than I ever have. Now that I'm aware of it I hope that it will affect me less next term but its clearly time for me to start the transformation away from academia.

On to the source of today's despair! I start my day at the keyboard with Juan Cole's Informed Comment every morning. Here, I keep up on the war and explore other links. Today, he led me to this piece about the Bush war plan to advance corporate freedom over the more familiar types of freedom like FDR's four freedoms, including 'freedom from want, freedom from fear.' I still feel nauseous from reading the piece. I despise conspiracy theories and the type of negative paranoia that surrounds so much Bush bashing but, smacking the table with my open palm, this administration is so cynical, so filled with a lust for power and profit . . . vomiting seems like the only sane response.

The only solution is to fight them on every front. So here's a bit of good news from Helena Cobban, the US Senate has declared that the US should not establish permanent military bases in Iraq. Let's hope that they have the gumption to make this stick! Fear of a permanent US military prescence in Iraq fuels the insurgency. Ordinary Iraqis won't rat out the insurgents in their midst if they feel that the US military is there to fulfil some secret plan to set up permanent bases.

Another solution: learn more about Iraq! One place to start is Anthony Shadid's powerful book, Night Draws Near. It comes out in paperback this summer. I plan to send copies to all my family and friends.

Another great source, and completely free, are Iraqi blogs! Yes, there are even Iraqis blogging in English. One of the best is Treasure of Baghdad. I have put others in my link list. Want to hear the voice of a middle-aged, educated, powerful, Iraqi woman? A voice in the blogosphere that resonates with all the other strong, middle-class Arab women I know? (Yes, strong, articulate, passionate Arab women. Yes. They exist. They are practically the only kind of Arab women you can find!) Read Faiza's blog. Some of it is in Arabic but it is well worth it to scroll down and search for the English posts. And here I find my hope. I don't subscribe to rose-tinted nostalgic views on some sort of universal motherhood. But motherhood is powerful, parenting is powerful. And as I type, with my 14-month old, asleep in my arms, I know that it one of the things that draws me out into the world and forces me to have a voice.

Motherhood is also my solace. As I run through my blogs in the morning from the political blogs to the mommy blogs, I always end with Owlhaven. It restores my equilibrium to visit this multi-cultural family. Both American and global, traditional and contemporary, ordinary and extraordinary. Then I can begin the rest of my day.


Heather said...

I'm inspired Sharon!! I think I'll dust off the old big picture and get back in the saddle! I am just getting the kids ready to take to the movies...and I will be back - despite having ooodles of work to do myself --intersession insanity!!

Welcome to the "blogoshere"

Umm 'Skandar said...

Thanks Heather, I can't wait til you're actively blogging again.

And of course, the plea of the new blogger, link to me!!