25 September 2007

The Ways We Spend Our Time

Yesterday the academic quarter began. Uck.

I sat in meetings from 9 until 5 with only 1 half hour break and listened to people talk to a room full of mostly-first time teachers who seemed bright eyed and ready to be disappointed by a disinterested and ultra-cool student body. By 3:30 I had completely lost my mind as none of what I heard yesterday in the 1-5 meeting was news to me. I sat in that uncomfortable chair wondering why the fates hate me so much as to send me on an 84-mile journey to be told that I need to put my email address on my syllabus. I also felt angry because the bill of sale for this gig is somewhat dishonest. New teachers asked things like, “What if we have a really disruptive student, or even worse a student who threatens us, what can we do?” The faculty assured us that we could contact Student Judicial Affairs, and it would be taken care of. Having watched a colleague go through this a few years ago, I know this to be a lie. She had a student who had threatened her and others, and who wrote all kinds of violent stuff on his Facebook page, and the University insisted they could not compel him to leave until after something had happened. “What about cheating?” Well, we here at Like Your Money University are very serious about this. Again, having been through this myself I know this university does very little about plagiarism. I’ve had documented evidence, I’ve filled out forms, I’ve emailed the office in charge, and have had only a warning placed on only one persons record. A Warning! Oooohh. Scary. No, in the end I was really angry for having my time wasted with well-meaning, but empty promises. I am here to write a dissertation, and that is where my energy will go. Damn, I forgot how much time bandits irk me.

In other news. I have been intrigued with a young man in my Arabic class. He is 19, I think. He wants to join the military, and he is learning Arabic because he wants to go to Iraq and work with an elite group there. I no longer feel even the slightest obligation to pretend that this is anything but hysterical. I’m pretty sure that if he learns Arabic he will be sent to the Philippines, or something, before he’s sent to the Middle East. When I brought this up with him, he told me that like other large bureaucracies these things can happen. In fact, every time I question the wisdom of the military, he has a simple and ready answer. He has seemed increasingly irritated that those of us in the class question what is going on in the War. He is not the only one. The other day I saw a large truck with a sign on the back of it that said: “If you can’t get behind the troops, get in front of them ASSHOLE!” Seriously. Clearly, people in this camp have a view of the war that is pretty dogmatic. What I’m trying to comprehend is why these people seem to think that I also need to share their dogmatic and simple views of things. So, this fellow in my class was being quizzed on his intention and his feelings about killing people, and he became so upset he clenched up his fist, and had to walk away from us, not speaking to us again for the duration of the class. My views on this war are also dogmatic, but I certainly don’t expect truck-driving dudes to share my feelings, nor would I ever call them assholes via car sign when they don’t (though, maybe I should). I think M needs to be more prepared to answer tough questions about killing and suffering rather than just assume that we all obligated to adore the troops enough not to question anything about them. Before he quit speaking to us he informed us that he got the contract he wanted, and would not be back for the next Arabic class since he was going into the military.

K just finished reading a book to me about the Madison administration. The similarities between the war of 1812 and the Iraq War are eerie. The Americans were unprepared for many eventualities. Early on when Americans went into Canada, something military leaders assured Madison would be easy, they consistently faced ass-whoopings. Also assured that Washington City was not on the radar of the British, there was no plan to protect or defend that city, and eventually the British came in and burned down the White House. Opps. Madison’s popularity plummeted as a badly managed war seemingly with no strategy dragged on and on for no apparent reason. Our original gripe with the British that led to the war was over trade embargos. Years later, both exhausted by the conflict, the British signed a treaty with the U.S. that still didn’t lift the trade barriers over which we went to war. We declared victory anyway, and arguably for the first time an American identity was formed over a hollow war victory. It’s a good thing we don’t teach kids much history in the public high schools here, or else we’d be forced to reflect on our mistakes. This would of course take time from putting signs on our trucks that call out pacifists as “assholes.”


Blogger AmpiezzaDiVedute said...

She's back!

Ughhh...is your Arabic class at UC-Riverside as well? That guy sounds like a real piece of work. It's nice that they let you talk about current affairs in class, though. How's the lugha coming along?

Egyptian Arabic is...hard... and not as pretty. But I am trying to learn... Have you considered applying for one of the DoS's Critical Language Scholarships? You can get them during the summer, or during the year for 6 mos in conjunction with a Fulbright.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Weeping Sore said...

If I wasn't worried that it would embolden the terrorists, I would agree with you.

12:46 AM  

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