Friday, September 28, 2012

the weather actually varies a lot; rainshowers come through and dump a few inches on the city, and when they do whole intersections become flooded, virtual oceans where even pickups shouldn’t venture but surely not me in a van, or a bicycle. even when i go around and avoid the big corner right near our house I find other corners and whole streets where you just have no idea how deep it is, just that it takes a whole block or more and doesn’t look like anything went in, and actually came out the other side.

went to get a texas driver’s license and the computers broke down, almost as soon as we got there, thus making everyone sit there with blank stares on their faces, though the workers at the place were actually a little relieved; they got part of the morning off, in essence, to do facebook or whatever. what strikes me about the driver’s license place is that it’s a true cross-section of society as we know it, at least society over sixteen, or whatever the minimum age is. country people, city people, they all pile right in there and use their cells to tell someone or other that they aren’t coming back for a while. but we left; it might have cost registering for the election but looks like we might be able to do that yet anyway; I’m not sure.

I have a whole class of american linguistics students many of whom actually read the books, do the work and enjoy learning about linguistics. this is entirely new to me; in esl we are often teaching a topic that is nothing better than pretend; it might be interesting in a side way, but nobody is in there for the topic itself. now we’re practicing with real topics, and ones that are interesting to me: why did we have the great vowel change? what is up with this word “y’all”? why did English give up with “thee” and “thy” and “thine” and switch all over to “you” which does not distinguish plural? why are the northern cities shifting their vowels even now as we speak? to me these are interesting questions, so I enjoy bringing them up, and learning more about them; I prepare for class by looking this stuff up sometimes, and that’s fun. in my other class i have international grad students struggling to be better teachers, and this puts me on more familiar ground, but then, in my last assignment, I’m a writing lab tutor, and this is really fun and educational; I get all kinds of people, from clueless freshmen to a guy who studies frog fungi and reasons for amphibian decline.

it was there this morning that a young woman law student came to get help on a paper basically justifying states’ making all kinds of restrictive voting laws. every state is different, she said, and this is their job, and as long as these restrictions don’t discriminate, yadda yadda. I almost slapped her silly; of course they discriminate, that’s the point. if you look democrat, you’re black, you’re a woman, or poor, then they find a problem with your id, or change the law so you have to get a photo id which is only available across town in business hours. it’s a systematic movement by republicans that has worked well for over ten years and won two elections although some attribute the one to the supreme court also being in their pocket. the whole thing made me furious since here she was, basically justifying highway robbery and using the legal system, legal jargon, to justify it, but my job was to help her with her writing. I walk through the valley of whatever, I bite my tongue, help her with her writing. I could see, in the end, that she was grateful I didn’t lay into her; I think she knew, on some level, that it’s not a question of voter fraud. none of these voter-restricting states have really suffered from voter fraud. Illinois maybe, but Illinois is not in question.

we live an urban lifestyle now; we live on a busy street, and it has a steady stream of bicyclists, and joggers, even at six in the morning. this was hard in particular on the most sensitive of our dogs, uma, who had a shrill bark and was especially threatened by all kinds of people in the house, ever, and just bit somebody one day, a friend of mine who is especially tall, maybe taller than she’d ever seen. I’d told her to calm down and lay off but she couldn’t. this was her doom. my wife took her in and said that uma needed a new home. things were looking bad for uma. it was especially hard on my wife, since it was her dog and she had been committed to caring for her, etc., but now was forced to admit that she couldn’t protect people and was even afraid for our seven-year-old. uma’s life was in the balance. I thought of her pretty face and the few times she’d actually look at me, and even let me pet her, toward the end, and I felt badly that I’d let it happen, or would be responsible in any way. on the other hand, the other dog was now able to come out, go for a walk, hang out in the house etc. though even the pleasure of having a real dog in the living room was dampened by knowing, another one was out there on death row.

they say the texas pledge here, I kid you not, a pledge of allegiance to the texas flag, and to the state of texas, and it’s not that big a deal partly because apparently they do it throughout the state of texas, even down in austin and san antone and all the big cities. it’s a state thing, to perpetuate its own state self-image, I guess, and you see these texas flags around and even a few bumper stickers that say “secede” – although I wonder, actually, if this is kind of a dixie rebel, a kind of racism, a kind of anti-big government local identity, or just a bit of pride in a local, regional place that is unique, different definitely from mexico to the south and the usa to the north. I’m not quite sure, more on this later. it executes people even as I write, this happens regularly, texas executes more prisoners than the other 49 combined, and there are more murders. gun homicides, in the texas prisons each year than in whole countries abroad, countries such as japan and Belgium where people just aren’t as used to killing each other as a way of life. the reason I mention it is that, in registering to vote, one becomes party to it, yes I’m a citizen of this state, so I therefore agree with the wishes of the majority as is our political agreement, and thus become a part of the state that is in essence a murderer.

you may say it’s justified, these people have after all killed someone, capital punishment is the only appropriate punishement for a horrific crime, etc. for me, it’s an impediment to voting. much as I want to slam that lever down against mitt, I don’t enjoy signing up for jury duty or in other ways becoming the hand on the electric chair switch. it’s ok to be part of a state where, basically, they believe in government hands off business, hands off the common man, but hands on the education and even hands on your heart while they say that texas pledge. there’s a lot of control of the schools, control of the roads, control of stuff, in some ways. it’s a big state, like california, lots of cities, lots of roads, lots of outlaws.

uma, however, was spared – somebody at the pet place took a liking to her beautiful face, and when the time came, and we said, we just can’t take her back, they took her. I figured that, somewhere in the state of texas, someone would take pity on a dog that basically had a good heart, but just couldn’t control her teeth. and they did. these stories sometimes come out ok.

as for voting rights, that’s an unfolding drama. I’ll keep you posted.

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