Saturday, March 29, 2008

Me So Hijab

HijabWalking the halls of my large, very international, urban university, I often find myself face to face with what I once considered human-sized jawas: Muslim women wearing hijab. In fact, over the past few semesters I’ve even befriended a few such women who work in my department. But when our eyes meet, I feel their gaze bore straight through me. As if I were naked. In fact, I’m a bit unnerved by the intensity of their stare. I am always the first to look away.

The interaction starts out mundane enough: light chatting about students or professors, general academic conversations. But then they invariably make some kind of inappropriate comment (insofar as Muslim law is concerned!) about my hair. Or my earrings. Or my clothes.

Growing up in Texas, I of course have been conditioned to be friendly and (as the infamous joke goes) even to say, “How nice,” when in fact I mean, “Fuck you.” Typically, when I receive some compliment on my clothes, I can just unthinkingly respond, “You look nice too.” I realized quickly that even the most kind Muslim woman would think I was being an asshole should I make that mistake.

How would I recover from such a faux pas? “Your shroud is so much nicer than Nadira’s!” or “How do you keep your cloak so dark? Is there a special detergent you use?” All-purpose purdah Tide perhaps?

When I’m among my female Muslim colleagues now, I reign in the niceties with a simple “thank you.” But sometimes their comments continue: “You change your hair so often!” “You’ve shaved your head again!” “Why did you take out your earrings?”

It seems I’m nothing but a western inkblot upon which they project their deepest desires: to wear multicolored clothes, to apply hair gel liberally, to slip a little bling into their otherwise drab lives. I wish they could see me for the person I am underneath all the sales-rack wardrobe, expensive cologne, and perfectly coiffed mane.

As one online Islamic “boutique” claims: “Islam liberated woman over 1400 years ago.” But when will I be liberated from being a mere object of fancy to these charming women in chador, to these burqa’d babes gone wild? Their dress is supposed to protect them from the lustful gazes of men, but who is protecting me?!?!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to...

Here is what I wrote:

I was elected to be a delegate to the district convention, but I will be unable to attend. Would you please select an alternate to go in my place?

Here is what I should have written:

There is no way in hell I’m giving up my precious few free moments to be part of the mockery known as American party politics. After seeing the organizational fiasco the night of the primary and the cartoonish/buffoonish personae with whom I would be forced to contend, I really have no desire to see any of you again.

And remove me from the email list populated with incessant rants about the other candidate and the latest conspiracy theory about how “our” candidate is going to be cheated out of votes/delegates/brownie points. Classroom elections in junior high were never so asinine!

I cannot see how my participation in this corrupt system would benefit freedom, democracy, or justice. Should I continue serving, I would be merely supporting a system that needs much more than an overhaul in order to serve properly the people of this country.

If ever you need help completely dismantling this injustice, give me a call. Until then, I do not want to play your reindeer games, particularly when the result will be the election of yet another politician in a regime devoid of intelligence, morality, and insight.

Sunday, March 16, 2008



Bolesław Leaf
March 19, 1994 - March 16, 2008

Rest in peace, my little orange baby.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I can't believe it's not Tuesday...

My calendar tells me it's spring break this week, despite the fact that spring doesn't begin for a another week and that over my "break" I have to write a midterm exam for my students, re-evaluate the grades for a handful of not my students, organize and type reading notes over several books and articles, begin research on my next essay due in two weeks, read a text for my Reading Group, and try to find time to begin reading another text that I put down a month ago and should've finished by now. Fuck spring break!

Tonight some friends and I are heading to Denton to hear some bands play at Rubber Gloves: WHY?, Cryptacize, Sunburned Hand of the Man, and Astronautalis. The band I'm most interested in is WHY?, meaning it's going to be way past my bedtime before they take the stage. (Please remember that I have at least three diagnosed sleeping disorders before you judge me an old, useless man. Which reminds me: I should try to take a little nap before going out.)

Last Thursday we had two inches of snow, and today the temperature is above 70. The forecast for the next few days should see us in the 80s. I try not to dread the summer coming on, but it's really what I do best. How did I manage to live in Texas for as long as I have?

A game I play with people who look ridiculous and sad: "What bad decisions led you to this?" The game consists in seeing someone ridiculous, sad, disgusting, ugly, unlovable, etc., and asking under my breath the question: "What bad decisions led you to this?" If I were to play this game with myself, I'm not sure even I could win. And I'm the one that invented the rule.

Now it's time to go back to my sweaty spring break (that is no break at all) and try to take a nap so I won't be entirely useless when my band comes on sometime around tomorrow morning.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

the grandeurs of risk

I'm convinced that such a circle [that is, the unclosable circle of an encounter, which revolves around the undesirable] only exhausts the strength of those who don't enter into it with the grandeur of risk, the amorous and loving truth, slow devastation which breaks every tie with a life that is still immediate. To forget that is the obverse of disaster, because time's subtle desire upsets every foundation. A faithful weakening must meet the other and immemorially lose the other in the self.

--from Abdelkebir Khatibi's Love in Two Languages [Amour bilingue], translated by Richard Howard

This desire and promise let all my specters loose. A desire without a horizon, for that is its luck or its condition. And a promise that no longer expects what it waits for: there where, striving for what is given to come, I finally know how not to have to distinguish any longer between promise and terror.

--from Jacques Derrida's Monolingualism of the Other; or, The Prosthesis of Origin, translated by Patrick Mensah

The principle that birth is presencing-of-total-working concerns neither the origin nor the end. Even though it is the great earth and empty space, it neither obstructs birth-qua-presencing-of-total-working nor death-qua-presencing-of-total-working. When death is presencing-of-total-working it becomes the great earth and empty space and it neither obstructs death-qua-presencing-of-total-working or birth-qua-presencing-of-total-working. The great earth and the empty space exist exhaustively in birth and death.

-- from Kigen Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō, qtd. in Geron Kopf's Beyond Personal Identity: Dōgen, Nishida, and a Phenomenology of No-Self

Friday, March 7, 2008

Broken Wing

BolesławThere are few things more tragic than a suffering animal, whether that animal be human or not. Watching the demise. Witness to the dissipation. All you want to do, all you feel you can do, is hold on to something no longer there. If it ever was. Knowing full well that nothing you do can effect any change in the situation of our own mortal vastness.

I’ve studied enough Hinduism to know that it’s all illusion: the pain, the suffering, even the conception of life itself. But the illusion is all we have. All we can know of life.

The post-structuralists are accused of nihilism, but only by those who don’t understand them. They gesture toward the im/possibility of death. It is always already outside of our phenomenological experience of life. It’s a death that lives on (sur-vivre as survival), that dissolves ontology, absent both the ontic as well as the logos. Something singular yet universal, embracing all horizons.

And yet it’s not death that concerns us, as the Cynics would agree. It’s dying. It’s the slippage from being to nonbeing. The erasure of all but the trace. The omnipresent absence neither here nor there. The unbearable void that muffles the word, the name, the universe.

But everyone—even the so-called Christians—agree: it is only through dying that one becomes immortal. Too bad none of us will be around when it happens.

Please keep Bolesław in your thoughts.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Gay for Democracy

I wonder if I’ll ever post to this blog again. I wonder if my days will ever stop being so damned full of foolishness and nonsense and incessant busywork. I wonder if I’ll finally slip over the edge of sanity and land in a puddle of my own full-blown, hard-core, crazy-assed lunacy. I wonder if my neck will ever stop hurting.

These are all good things to wonder about as I get to luxuriate by not having to drive to campus this evening for the worst class in graduate school. Thank the heavens for crappy winter weather! Snow day in Texas in March—just two days before “spring” break? Why thank you very much.

Today I was thinking about tautologies and dogmatism … and how dogmatism is always a form of tautology: what could be more dogmatic and tautological than I AM THAT I AM? Even the skeptic critique of the dogmatists’ syllogism is based on the uselessness of tautology: premise A, that all human beings are mortal, is necessarily always (and in all ways) no less tautological than all black chess pieces are black. Dogmatism asserts its own meta-self-recursivity. And all must bow before it(self).

Truth however asserts in perfect Heraclitean fashion that I am that which I am not. Truth embraces its own opposite. In balance. And resonance: a non-Narcissistic echo that decenters and destabilizes its own frame of reference. The truth is big enough to embrace that which it is not. In my opinion, the apophatic god is the only one/not-one (not) worth worshiping!

And yes, I did vote in the Texas primary Tuesday. I even returned to the caucus afterwards to experience the glory of the chaos and insipidness of democracy. Sorry, Iraq. Sorry Afghanistan. Sorry Iran … eventually. Sorry for bringing all our overwrought freedom your way! And my small role in democracy is not over just yet: I’ve been elected a delegate to the district caucus. I’ll report back near the end of the month how absurd that procedure is.