29 May 2007

On Memorial Day

I was reading this piece this morning, and I was reminded of some of my not so distant research on the creation of historical memory after conflict. Admittedly, I haven't looked at much on the importance of memory during conflict, but I was estimate that memorial efforts create more of a public stir when the whole society is engaged in the conflict, which is not the case with the U.S. in Iraq at present.

It's funny how Memorial Day has taken on so many different meanings in it's 150 year or so history. It went from commemorating a moral victory, to remembrance of all war dead, and is now basically an excuse for selling discounted stuff. And yet in some ways the day hasn't lost any of its original meanings, but has rather gained a more multi-faceted identity. For some, the conflict between pro- and anti-slavery forces isn't quite over. Indeed, one could argue that the victory of the Civil War has yet to be consolidated in the form of a truly just and equitable society, given the continuing persistence of economic and social inequalities based upon race. Yet for others, the violent horrors of something so long ago don't really effect them much, and thus it's a good time for a barbecue and some discount shopping. Still others have attached new meanings to Memorial Day to commemorate the loved ones they lost in more recent conflicts. Sadly, a new group has this day, and likely all others, to remember the loss of someone close to them within these past three years.

But if Memorial Day really is about remembering the suffering of war, then how good are we at living up to that mandate? How many of us really stop and think about the U.S. service personnel that have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially if we don't really know anyone who's died there? Sadder still, how many of us really think about the innocent civilians that have died in these wars and in others? In today's wars, something like 90 percent of casualties are civilians, which is the complete reverse of 100 years ago. Perhaps the continuing evolution of Memorial Day and similar commemorations will lead us to think about these newer questions.

In any event, m
emorials are essential to any society's dealing with conflict. As Martha Minow (1998: 121) puts it: “what’s needed, paradoxically, is a process for reinterpreting what cannot be made sensible, for assembling what cannot be put together, and for separating what cannot be severed from both present and future.” Memorial Day, along with other days and monuments, will likely continue to give voice to this ongoing struggle.

16 May 2007

Post-graduation survival guide

Congratulations! You've just finished an overpriced and underuseful graduate degree. Here's what you do after the whole walking for the family thing:

That day (Day 0): Have picnic, fly kite, send family back to little circle of hell from whence they came.

Day 1
: Sleep, do silly things, update resume. Toy with the idea of putting initials behind your name on every piece of paper, ever. Drop that idea when you realize you're still just a schmuck. Greet successful, well educated friend at airport and take her to successful, well educated person conference. Help another college friend move and listen to her talk about her job (among other things). Realize you should find one of those job things.

Day 2
: A little more sleep (this is a high maintenance mom visit you're recovering from, after all), inform temp service of new availability. Clean out school bag and place in closet. Find tie you've been missing since December in secret pocket of once and future everyday bag.

Day 3
: Go to new temp assignment. Come home to find first loan bill in mailbox. Shit pants. Call loan company that you never borrowed from but swears you owe them money right now, and inquire "where the fuck is my deferment, bitches?!?" Defer loan. Proceed to panic, but realize you just deferred your loan, and are again in the clear.

Day 4 (tomorrow)
: Begin job search for serious. Contemplate retail therapy, but recall that you're almost out of money. Do more temp work instead.

14 May 2007

Obligatory panda post by yet another DC resident (2)

It seems as though Butterstick should change his name to Buttertub. He's turning out to be a little chunkster! I saw him on Thursday with the parentals, and he was taking an angsty teenager nap, conveniently situated beside the new Asia Trail at the Zoo. Observe (and click for bigger):

Isn't that just a bundle full of precious?

Now back to job hunting and/or reading the Onion.

09 May 2007

Tra la, la la la, la, la la la, la...

Picked up my academic regalia today. It's totally Smurf blue. And the hood? A big red, white and blue panel surrounded by peacock blue (for public/international affairs types), which basically looks like Uncle Sam threw up all over it. But back to the Smurfs.


A Smurf

An AU-SIS MA Recipient

See what I have to look forward to at the asscrack of dawn on Sunday? If only my crazy mother weren't coming (T-minus 20 hours), we could skip all this.

08 May 2007

Blogiversary: Moments of Wisdom

Today is my Blogiversary!
  • We began with little fanfare in my would-be homeland, discussing the time out chair of British politics.
  • Less than two months into the game, we took 5 weeks off, in an effort to save the planet and go on vacation.
  • Nothing at all of note happened for a long time.
  • In January, I grew tired of Election 2008, and it had only begun.
  • In March, express noted that apparently the Wall Street Journal agrees with me on how governance changes are seriously needed at the Smithsonian, but just like at AU (a school I dearly depart in 5 days), they probably won't happen.
  • Also in March, I told you all how to go get shot up in Iraq. DCBlogs thought this information was worth sharing with you.
  • In April, I tried to make a funny. Somebody got pissed off at me. I shot them down. This amuses me greatly. Woe be unto idiot commenters.
  • Finally, just last week, I whored myself out to the world. :)
So there you have it kids. This blog has been a waste of your time and mine for at least 365 days. Four more wars!!! Er... years...

06 May 2007

This is the big one Elizabeth! I'm comin' to join ya honey.

T-minus one week till the end of my graduate education. After that, sweet freedom, and being a productive member of society. I don't yet know what all that entails, but I do know this:

Step one: Find job.

You interested? I'm smart, I'm cute, and I know stuff. I can also add quaint Appalachian colloquialisms to your vocabulary. Them's qualifications, right?

04 May 2007

I think Time missed a few

I was browsing Time's list of the world's 100 most influential people, and I couldn't help notice a gap. In the "scientists and thinkers" section, I counted only two non-scientists, one of whom was Al Gore. If they're going to do that, why not just name it the scientists section, and move on? I don't mean to discount the work of the individuals who made the list in that category. Each seemed to be engaged in incredibly remarkable work that will have a lasting impact in the world. Yet I wonder about how we value the hard sciences over other disciplines.

It seems (and I read about or watched something on this somewhere, but who knows what or when) that our society places a huge value on the sciences over and above other academic pursuits. Maybe it's because scientists often talk about things that most of us can't grasp, and thus we just assume they're smarter. But what about in other fields?

There are the historians who uncover new information about times long past, and thereby change our perception of our historical narrative. There are the anthropologists who help us to understand how our cultures function and how various dynamics swirl all around us. There are religious scholars and philosophers who explore the world's burning and potentially eternal questions with the same vigor as their scientists colleagues. There are political scientists who help us conceive of new concepts aimed at ensuring that our common humanity is respected and revered within the global community. There are writers, artists and musicians who craft their works in ways that move us. There are the peace scholars who show us how our world can grow, change, and be better for us all.

All of these endeavors are just as important as scientific studies, and, some of the resulting concepts are just as difficult for newcomers to grasp. This work should be recognized, valued and celebrated just as much as the sciences. Understanding our world is far too complex a task to be left to just a handful of disciplines. It's a common journey that requires an array of approaches in the hopes that maybe, just one day, we'll figure it out.

02 May 2007

Support UN peacekeeping

Excuse me for a moment while I blather on like an activist.

The time has come for Congress to debate the foreign affairs budget, which of course includes funding to the United Nations, including peace operations. The Better World Campaign and the United Nations Association of the United States of America have teamed up to create a website, the Price of Peace, where you can learn more about peacekeeping and sign a petition to your Congress member asking for continuing support of peace operations.

UN peacekeeping is vital in many countries emerging from conflict, as it provides security and stability and thus allows for the development of peaceful political discourse. Peacekeeping is not without its problems, though on the whole the operations have had significant successes. There are currently over 100,000 peacekeepers stationed worldwide, with many more coming if missions in Darfur and Lebanon reach their authorized strength, as well as talks now underway about a mission in Somalia. The United States doesn't have a particularly stellar record when it comes to meeting its obligation to the peacekeeping budget, even though such missions are vital to American interests abroad.

Take a minute to visit the website and sign the petition, which is now linked in the sidebar here. If you're skeptical or want to learn more about peace operations, I recommend reading an introductory article here, and visiting one of these sites:

Center on International Cooperation: Global Peace Operations
Henry L. Stimson Center: Future of Peace Operations Program
Challenges of Peace Operations Project
Partnership for Effective Peacekeeping