patriot act, close to home

As you might know, I have a sign on my office door that reads: “The FBI has not been here. Watch closely for the removal of this sign.” It’s been on my door for a while now; I put it up shortly after the ALA‘s response to the Patriot Act.

Sometime between 6 p.m. last night and 8:30 a.m. this morning, the sign was removed.

There are two options, as I see them: it was removed accurately, or it was removed as a prank. The former is terrifying to realize, as it could mean that the meager privacy of this library’s patrons is no more.

The latter is just pathetic and ignorant, not to mention unethical. Many patrons check the status of this sign, some on a daily basis, for years now. They have come to rely on its accuracy. And some college student pulled it down for a laugh.

Either way, the future for this country looks bleak: have your reading list scoured and evaluated for “un-American” content, or suffer for the abject lack of ethics in tomorrow’s legislators and leaders. Go team.

who’s sorry

Yesterday, Greg wrote a thought-provoking post about “Sorry, everybody.” I don’t agree with him, but it certainly made me think, particularly about apologies and why they’re important to me.

The reason why I don’t agree with Greg is very simple: in my opinion, apologizing is not a sign of weakness, of weeniedom. It’s the opposite. I am a strong person, and yet I apologize for my failures. That’s not a waste of anyone’s time. If those of us who could have done more don’t take responsibility for that fact, and feel bad about the repercussions for the rest of the world, how are we going to improve in the next four years? This stage, this disappointment in our apathy and acceptance of the consequences, is just as important as the next one: kicking ass. Maybe you’d like to skip this step, but I wouldn’t. Without it, I’m merely hard and cold and vindictive without the nice squishy center of compassion.

And I heart you too, Greg, for more than my favorite post of yours. I heart you for making me think, and for being my “little online friend” despite disagreeing with me. So if I were sorry about linking to “Apologies Accepted” today, I’d want you to forgive me.

Good thing I’m not.

extinguishing the effigy

I’m nauseated by some folks’ reactions to the election, particularly those in the Bay Area. We are so isolated here that it is quite easy for us all to say “this is not my America” or “I’m moving to Canada” or burn effigies of Bush. This last has me especially upset. Burning someone in effigy, to me, is an act of abject hatred. Is this what we want to become? Because, you know, we’re already over halfway there in the eyes of the rest of the world. Let’s not push it over the edge with thoughtless “Fuck America” signs and flag-burning.

Sure, I’m angry at the bamboozlement of over half the country by the media. I work in a library; don’t you think I know how many people no longer think for themselves? Sure, I’m disappointed that Kerry wasn’t elected. But do you think for one second I’m going to let some people who shouldn’t even be in power take away my patriotism, my self-respect?

Get a grip. Whine all you want in your journals and to your friends — everyone knows I sure do — but holding hands and dancing around the burning Bush as waves lap the most beautiful coastline of the most privileged city in America isn’t anything but a grand act of political masturbation. And while you’re wanking off, there are people without food, shelter, medicine, or the ability to vote dying in our streets.

You want to know what I do? That’s fair, since I’m dissing your jack-off love-in. As a volunteer, I teach English as a second language to naturalized citizens. I’ve done this for four years now, and it is a difficult gift of my time, but it is satisfying. I have translated and explained ballot measures to my students, held informal Q&A sessions on the differences between political parties. And despite their troubles with this twisted tongue, my students vote. They care enough to vote because they worked hard to gain the tools that help them make their own decisions. See that, and you’ll understand why those of us who were born citizens with all the necessary tools already in our grasps shouldn’t be reaching for our phalluses instead.

Comparing 9/11 to this past election, as I’ve heard more than a few people do now, is folly. One was a horrific tragedy that should have made us rethink our conduct in the rest of the world; the other was a miserable disappointment that should make us rethink our conduct in our own country. Dividing ourselves along party lines is exactly what those in power want. It takes no effort at all to pluck a vote from a loyal partisan; what we all must become is loyal Americans, believing in the goodness of our country first, and questioning everything else.