Thursday, March 15, 2012

Our Wedding: Part IV: Shower and Pre-Marital Dance Party

I'm not a fan of sex segregation, so the prospect of a shower, a hen party, and waiting in the back of the church with crying female relatives were things I wanted to avoid in the process of getting married. As it was, it all worked out great, and I probably could've been less of a jerk about some things, but the end result was indeed that I never ended up alone in a room full of women.

I really didn't want to have a bridal shower - for one thing my lady of honor lived in NYC and I didn't expect her to do anything but show up the day before the wedding, for another I didn't want to spend an afternoon being given stuff labeled "Bride" and getting less-than-stellar advice from female relatives (I think my mother-in-law is as allergic to girly-girls as I am so we get along pretty well in that regard), and finally this wedding involved two people and I didn't want to have a wedding-related party without Will. However, my mom insisted, and Will told me that I needed to grow up, stop being a dick, accept her generosity, and have a shower, so I did.

It was actually a really awesome afternoon, and my mom did a great job (she also did everything, which I feel guilty about looking back). We invited relatives, inlaws, and friends of both genders, and used the afternoon as a way for everyone to get to know each other before the wedding weekend. It felt like a family party with a short bout of gift-giving, and my mom got to show off her taste in interior decorating and cooking. People talked and ate, there was nothing labeled bride or groom, and there were no baby pictures or lingerie.

Will asked for glassware, which we got in abundance, and we also got a new toaster oven and a camping lantern. I had specifically asked for tools for shower gifts, so my dad got me a cordless drill. KICKASS.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Enemy is Us

Over the past 10 years, the NYPD has shot a number of unarmed (black) men, beat up protestors just for the heck of it, blacked out the media from lower Manhattan, prevented protests from even occurring at the 2004 Republican convention, stopped and frisked untold thousands of people of color without probable cause, gotten their buddies off of parking tickets and then protested when they were censured for it, and now has  spied on muslims across state lines for no reason aside form their religion.

And the end result? The NYPD is pretty popular.

To me this illustrates the greatest threat to Liberty -- that the American people will simply hand it over to 'trusted' institutions like the police and the military, partly out of fear for our safety and partly because sentimental regard for those who 'put themselves in harm's way for us' makes criticizing them seem gauche.  And why should we not?  Most Americans will never have a particularly adverse encounter with a police officer, and the vast majority have nothing to fear from Guantanamo or wire taps.  Those who suffer under the heel of these infractions are minorities people neither like nor trust, so in the end the mass of the American people (the white mass) lose nothing personally when the security forces trample the rights of some brown people.

This is all old hat.  Tocqueville predicted as much with his memorable coinage 'the tyranny of the majority.'  It has been with us in some form since before Andrew Jackson made it an integral part of American politics with his white man's Democracy.

And yet, frustratingly, our cultural discourse doesn't have an expression for this threat.  It is all around us and yet movies and films do not warn of the People, but of select cabals that control things behind the scenes.  Pop culture is stuck in the anti-establishment politics of the 70's, despite the fact that American politics has moved on.  The bad guys in some of the great sci-fi TV of our time - "Firefly," "The X-Files" are behind-the-scenes conspiracies, not the indifferent populace.

Perhaps as my generation comes of age we will see pop culture that reflects the crises of our time and not those of the watergate era.  I can only hope.  We need a new narrative for new concerns, not one left over from our parents'.

PS: If anyone can think of some great anti-populist media, I'm all ears

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Contraception and Catholicism, Continued - The Anti-Americanism of the Catholic Hierarchy

Catholicism has, over the course of American History, become a vital part of the American landscape.  From the Catholic founding father Charles Carroll and his cousin Bishop John Carroll (an early supporter of a vernacular Mass) to President Kennedy, Catholicism made a claim to be a faith compatible with American ideals, and over a century and more it proved itself to be so.

A separation between Church and state came to be welcomed as it allowed Catholics to send their children to Catholic schools, rather than the de-facto protestant state-run schools found in places like Massachusetts.  American Catholics embraced democracy and the democratic process, rather than opposing it like many in Europe, who viewed republicanism as inherently anti-clerical.  American Catholic churches featured greater lay participation in their management as well.*  The Catholic Hierarchy objected to a number of these views, characterizing the American church's tendencies as the heresy of "Americanism", and tried off and on to bring the American church more in line with Rome.**

Our Wedding: Part III: The Planning

This post mostly talks about details - if you crave photos you probably want the next post.

Since we were getting married in WV while living in Annapolis there was a lot of trying to consolidate trips or work things out with my mom on the phone - we only lived two hours away, but I can't imagine what it must be like to plan a wedding much further away. We were extremely luck to have my mom willing to do so much of the leg work - she really enjoyed getting to plan everything and we were happy to let her have her way on a lot of things.

Our budget was pretty small - we planned a wedding that we would ideally be able to pay for ourselves, but our parents were quite eager to help pay for the reception food, alcohol, flowers, eating ware, and decorations. Thanks to having so may people who were willing to put in their time and effort to help us the whole thing cost about $3,000 for a 70-person party, all told - an enormous sum to my mind, but affordable.

So here are the details - maybe you'll find some ideas.

Monday, March 5, 2012

In Which I Tell What It Was Like to Try to Get Help From
the Government With Both Hands Tied Behind My Back
When My Only Other Choice Was Suicide

Hi. Guest poster here. My display name is Seneca Howland and I'm a bi-polar older dude suffering from severe depression. I thank both Testudo and Meles for the privilege of posting here and I hope my story proves helpful.

Here are the names of a few symptoms that people who are depressed know only too well:

lack of initiative or motivation. ...

  • Being unable to start or complete paying bills
  • Staring at an assignment without getting to work on it
  • Just sitting for hours doing nothing
a state of little or no motivation, initiative or drive. Usually the person has a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, and may be content to do little or nothing with his time.
Mental health journalist and author John McManamy argues that although psychiatrists do not explicitly deal with the condition of apathy, it is a psychological problem for some depressed people, in which they get a sense that "nothing matters", the "lack of will to go on and the inability to care about the consequences". He describes depressed people who "...cannot seem to make [themselves] do anything," who "can’t complete anything," and who do not "feel any excitement about seeing loved ones."
the inability to take pleasure in activities one would normally find enjoyable. As a symptom of depression, it is the loss of enjoyment from activities a person normally likes to do. This can include everyday activities like eating, watching television, reading, sexual encounters, etc.
And there is another symptom that has no name, but I can describe it well enough for a police artist: Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by making decisions, planning steps to accomplish a task, or interpreting instructions. This last one is particularly important. Let us call it “The Nameless One.”

I told you that to tell you this.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Past Ain't Even Past

There is a knee-jerk reaction among many northerners and suburbanites to the southern heritage crowd that wraps itself in the confederate battle flag -- "The war is over, you lost."  Sometimes it is modified by the length of time since the war (120, 150 years, depending on the decade).  But it is always wrong.

As I wrote as much in a comment on the esteemed Kevin Levin's article, but I'd like to expand my thoughts here.

To say that history is not with us because it is long past effectively cedes the field to the Neo-Confederates, and ignores the fact that the issues raised by the war (racial equality, for instance) are still alive today.  It is not a long road from Appamattox to Selma, and toxic notions that blacks are nothing but criminals and loafers can be traced back to the apologists of slavery arguing that free black men lived lives of crime and despair.

As the Comedian Louis CK says 150 years is 'two old ladies back-to-back' -- there are many African Americans alive today whose grandparents were slaves. Beyond abandoning our history to those who celebrate treason, merely moving on minimizes the closesness of the War and how much of the inequality from slavery remains in our society.

I prefer to celebrate the sacrifice of those loyal to the US and to celebrate their accomplishment, rather than just suggesting that the whole affair doesn't matter.
On the other hand, as a descendent of Confederate soldiers and slaveholders (on one side, union soldiers are on the other) I feel like southerners have a duty to wrestle with our past and where we come from (see Faulkner, William). Confronting the ugliness that we find will help southerners understand the South as it is today and to make it better.

I think that the whole-hearted engagement with our past is the only way to counter those who would celebrate our nation's dismemberment.

Why I Don't Dress Up Like a Confederate Soldier

The esteemed Kevin Levin has a post about the narrow appeal of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  It's really about the neo-confederate movement, and not about civil war reenacting, but as a reenactor who does not dress up like a confederate (or anyone else from the Late Unpleasantness of Northern Aggression Between the States), I feel obligated to answer the question in his title.

In some ways I seem like a perfect candidate for confederate reenacting -- I'm from Virginia (Northern, but my Dad was from Richmond and my mom is enamored with the South, so I grew up in a more 'Southern' environment than most kids in Fairfax County), I have been fascinated by the civil war on and off since gradeschool, and I like dressing up in funny clothes on the weekend.  I have confederate ancestors (at the moment I remember a cavalrymen who served under Stewart, but there were others as well) and the idea of connecting to them through reenacting's odd roleplaying is appealing.  Moreover, I believe that reenacting can be valuable.

But there are two reasons I haven't thrown my kepi in and joined up with the boys in gray.

Our Wedding: Part II: The Philosophy

From the beginning I wasn't looking forward to our wedding -- I wanted to get married, but the thought of planning this huge, tradition-laden thing was not at all appealing. I'm not much of a romantic, and it seemed like an enormous amount of work and expense (especially expense) that I would be expected to not only do but be enthusiastic about. As I joked with Will, I must have missed the class that all women seem to go through where they just know how many weeks before the wedding you need to send out invitations. My sister-in-law had been planning her dream wedding since she was a teenager*, but I stumbled into it with only the vaguest idea of what was expected of me. I didn't have many female friends and had never been involved in the planning of a wedding before, so the more I learned the more aghast I was at the enormity of it all, lacking as I was in close female friends and relatives to turn to for support.

WAKnight: This somewhat understates the amount of forethought -- we'd had ideas about the church, the food and the band, and Rachel's mom had provided a lot of great suggestions. So even before we really started planning in earnest we had a general idea.

While the whole thing was still a hazy blur on the horizon in October we picked a date - the third weekend in May. After Thanksgiving we sat down with our parents and looked at a wedding checklist and time table that my mother-in-law had printed out from a bridal website. The list was soothing: I like lists, and the ability to run down it and see everything that could possibly come up clarified the whole process. There was a lot to do, but as we studied the list we realized that a lot of it was stuff we didn't care about (personalized napkins? engagement photos? DJ?), and things didn't seem quite so impossible.

Still, in early in January things came to head: I was feeling completely overwhelmed with the planning, and I just didn't want to do this whole wedding thing. Maybe get married at St Anne's Annapolis (the Episcopal church we go to) with a few friends and close family and have a buffet lunch at Treaty of Paris, or have a small ceremony at my family's church in West Virginia, Tomahawk Presbyterian, and have a nice dinner somewhere in town. Will, on the other hand, wanted a real wedding, and after some careful negotiating we decided that he would take the lead on researching and planning the big items (venue, catering, cake, priest, marriage counseling) and I would assist when he asked for help and take the lead on some things, like invitations and programs.