e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu



1. Read Elmore Leonard's newest novel, Mr. Paradise, over the weekend. Definitely not his best work, but was I ever left with a serious case of Detroit nostalgia afterward.

2. Speaking of motown...this a.m. I had my English 112 students look at a few analyses of Friday's Pistons-Pacers brawl and compare them in light of Matthew Arnold's "Culture and Anarchy," which they read (and seemed to enjoy!) over the weekend. Good discussion of what Arnold means by "the pursuit of sweetness and light."

3. Finishing up revisions of my article, "Two-Year Colleges, the Media, and the Rhetoric of Inevitability," to submit to Community College Journal of Research and Practice. Almost ready to send. If it's not in the mail by Wednesday at this time, the tenure gods will surely be frowning in my general direction.


Santo Domingo

Good eats right here in Hamilton, Ohio. A Caribbean restaurant, Santo Domingo, opened a few months back at Third and Pershing and we finally checked it out this afternoon. The kind of lunch that makes me guilty I didn't hit the Y this morning. But my was it tasty! I got the peppered steak, which came with mounds of onions and a bigger mound of dirty rice with black beans. The woman who runs the place, sensing we had never been there, brought us a few samples of their other items, including some ox tail. We'll definitely be back.

Last night saw Miami's production of "Hair." Definitely dated, but I've always liked the music, particularly the "Frank Mills" ballad that the Lemonheads covered in the early 90s. I doubt the irony of staging the show at this cultural moment was lost on anyone in attendance. Smack dab in the middle of Butler County, where well over 2/3 of voters supported Issue 1 two weeks ago, and we're celebrating love and acceptance. So it was a bittersweet performance.


anti-Catholic activist endorses Bush win


Bob Jones: Bush win was God's 'reprieve'

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Nov. 12, 2004 | GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) -- Bob Jones III, president of the fundamentalist college that bears his name, has told President Bush he should use his electoral mandate to appoint conservative judges and approve legislation "defined by biblical norm.''

"In your re-election, God has graciously granted America -- though she doesn't deserve it -- a reprieve from the agenda of paganism,'' Jones wrote Bush in a congratulatory letter posted on the university's Web site.

"You have been given a mandate. ... Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ,'' said the letter, dated Nov. 3.

A White House spokesman said he didn't know whether the president had seen the letter.

Jonathan Pait, a spokesman for the university, said the letter was placed on the school's Web site because Jones had read it to students in chapel and many told their parents about it. He said Thursday that Jones had not received a response from the White House.

Pait said it would be a misreading of the letter to think that ``everyone who voted for the Democrats is a pagan'' or that "if you voted for John Kerry you are a despiser of Christ.''

"For example, there are those who voted for John Kerry because they opposed the war in Iraq,'' Pait said. ``Dr. Jones did not intend to paint everyone with that broad a brush.''

Jones wrote that Bush will "have the opportunity to appoint many conservative judges and exercise forceful leadership with the Congress in passing legislation that is defined by biblical norm regarding the family, sexuality, sanctity of life, religious freedom, freedom of speech and limited government.''

In February 2000, Bush spoke at Bob Jones University when he was running for his first term in the White House. At the time, the school banned interracial dating and included anti-Roman Catholic material on its Web site.

The private Christian college has since dropped the dating ban but still maintains on its Internet site material questioning Catholicism.

Bush came under fire for the visit but defended it. He later wrote Cardinal John O'Connor of New York to apologize.


Iraqi civilian death toll

The U.S. military doesn't track the number of Iraqi civilians who die, but a team from Johns Hopkins does. Since the U.S. invaded Iraq, 100,000 *civilians* have been killed. Iraq was a volatile place before the invasion, but the report also found that the risk of violent death for civilians is now 58 times greater than it was pre-invasion. Story here: http://www.progressive.org/webex04/wx110104.html


the acceptance of prejudice

Why do we reject some forms of racism and prejudice and accept others? Hating gay people and Arab/Muslim people is not only widespread, it's condoned, it's righteous and it's all-American.

Seven days ago, eleven states passed ballot initiatives banning gay marriage. If I hear a million pundits (mis)use the word "morality" or claim these initiatives have a thing to do with "protecting marriage," I won't believe it. This was about hate and nothing more. These are modern day miscegenation laws, heirs of the prohibitions of inter-racial marriage, laws which were justified in the American south using the very same arguments: "we need to protect the institution of marriage," "God wants it this way," "this is how we want to do things in our state." Words spoken only two generations ago about black people marrying white people. Words spoken today about gay people marrying each other.

Gay people are still allowed to enter into relationships with one another; these referendums do nothing to stop homosexuality in general. They just discourage monogamy and commitment. Think about that. Defenders of morality in this country are now fighting *against* monogamy and commitment.

How is this protecting marriage? Marriage in this country is a state-sanctioned institution that brings with it material benefits. If an individual religious denomination wants to refuse to marry gay people, that's one thing (I'm sorry that those who run these churches choose to do this, but individual churches may opt to do just that). But straight people who just met are allowed to get married in Elvis chapels. Is that "moral"? And when the state bans certain groups from marrying, those groups are cut out of various tax breaks, incentives, and health care benefits. Yet these states expect gay people to continue to pay taxes and otherwise contribute to society, all the while being denied a right based on a fundamental identity marker.

The majority has spoken. The people in these states should set their own courses. Right? Well we are also a country that protects against the tyrrany of the majority. The American South thought that if a majority of their citizens supported their "peculiar institution of slavery," then they should be able to maintain slavery. How is this different?

It all comes back to "morals" and references to de-contextualized quotations from Hebrew scriptures. Personally, I and my own faith tradition (Catholicism), question from a theological standpoint the notion of literal interpretation of scriptures, which in addition to condemning homosexuality, dictate how one should go about selling daughters into slavery, forbid eating pork, and issue loads of other mandates. So I think any Christian who claims they interpret scriptures literally inevitably doesn't interpet ALL of scripture literally. But those are theological debates and it's up to individuals to decide what theology makes sense to them.

However, does anybody in this country *really* want to make LAWS based on what these scriptures say? Then eating pork should be illegal, too.

Seems like a ridiculous notion, right? A silly example, right? We also last week elected new legislators who don't think gay people should be teachers. Two of them also don't think single women should be allowed to be teachers. So I'm not sure that my own examples are necessarily too far beyond the realm of what's unfolding before our eyes.

The other acceptable form of hatred is anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment. First of all the vast majority of Muslims in the world are not Arabic, so it's ridiculous that we link these two groups so closely. Ann Coulter recently spoke here at Miami University and she argued with much passion in favor of racial profiling, especially when the race being profiled is Arab. So much for the idea that only liberals are permitted on college campuses, eh? Examples of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment are legion. Often the hatred is guided by so much confused and misguided anger and hostility and ignorance, it makes the head spin (the Sikh man who was killed days after 9/11 in Arizona--who was neither Muslim nor Arabic, but because of his turban, he was assumed to be both).

Recently, there's been an e-mail campaign to boycott the U.S. Post Office's new Eid stamp, which celebrates the holiday ending Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. The e-mail circulating about this boycott questions why we'd celebrate the religion that bombed us. Think about that. What if there was a boycott against a Christmas stamp because it celebrates the religion that lynched black people in the American south and led the Crusades (the ones in the Middle Ages where Christians slaughtered Muslims). What is interesting about this e-mail campaign is that it urges "patriotic" folks to forward the message and take part in the boycott. You know, it's one thing when a form of hatred becomes accepted. It's another thing when NOT taking part in the hatred is *un*acceptable. Prove you're a real American, this e-mail campaign implicitly says, and help us fight the enemy.

We're living in an historically significant era, without a doubt. I want to look back on this dark period and know that I did something to fight against these forms of prejudice that are accepted and condoned by both our public discourse as well as by our public policy. And make no mistake, the way we talk and the way we legislate ARE linked. Marlon Riggs' excellent documentary "Ethnic Notions" (go get this at your local library right now!!) makes the case that the U.S. has historically witnessed a convergence of discourse and policy. Riggs' film looks at images of African-Americans in popular culture (jokes and comic books and films and advertisements and minstreal shows) and dissects familiar stereotypes like the mammy, arguing that these discursive and pop cultural expressions at once mirrored, influenced, justified horrific legislation.


wake up

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter" --Martin Luther King Jr.

"Dawn does not come twice to awaken a man" --Arab proverb