Simply Sommer

The Truth is heavy, therefore few care to carry it.

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Beloved & Waterland (the back story)

It started a few weeks ago.  I sat down at my computer to do a little procrastinating on Facebook when I noticed an article in the Plymouth Patch about removing literature from the classroom.  Not just any literature, two amazing literary works, by two amazing authors.  Beloved by Toni Morrison & Waterland by Graham Swift.

Apparently, one girls parents complained to the superintendent about one scene in the book Waterland, which contained sexual content. The Plymouth-Canton school district allows the study of controversial material, and it also has a process in place for parental consent and alternative reading material.  Instead of Superintendent Hughes recognizing that, and the fact that the girl in question received an alternate assignment.  He unilaterally, after 10 years of instruction, with no other complaints, removed the text from the classroom in the middle of classroom discussion.

Of course, there was community outrage!  You could have seen it coming from a mile away.  Parents who consented to the reading of the book were upset.  Students who were in the middle of a compelling book that was ripped from there hands were upset and confused.  A community that prides itself of having one of the best High School Parks in the state was outraged.  Not only because the book was removed, but because one parent complained and the decision was made unilaterally without due process.

The superintendent recognizing his error, instituted a review process for the book Waterland, but a this time, another book was challenged, Beloved.  The review for Beloved would take place first, since the students in AP English still had access to these books.  Since it was too late for the students to return to the instruction of Waterland, the review for that book would take place at a later date.

If you are unfamiliar with the book Beloved,

Beloved (1987) is Morrison’s masterpiece. Reaching back to the legalized outrageousness of American slavery, Beloved takes up a real event—the slave woman Margaret Garner’s murdering (in 1855) her own child rather than allow that child to return into slavery. The novel explores the resources with which blacks survived a system they could not escape and would not accept. Deprived of their manhood, Paul D, Sixo and Stamp Paid manage nevertheless to remain men, just as Sethe sustains her motherhood despite vicious white attacks upon it. Rather than imagining the missing black father, Morrison conceives in this novel the entire race’s long-lost child—named Beloved. This character is simultaneously a crazed black girl wandering the roads, Sethe’s daughter come back from the dead (in search of love, but also of revenge), and finally a figure for the untold number of blacks who died during the several centuries of slave traffic between Africa and America. The figure of Beloved is Morrison’s most amazing creation. Even though she incarnates a history that must be remembered, her return to the world of the living cannot be borne. If Sethe is to resume her life and turn her own tormented past into purpose, she must escape Beloved's stranglehold.

The book may have some mature language and some uncomfortable scenes, but it has great educational value.  It is impossible to teach and explore the TRUE nature of slavery without a some uncomfortableness.

The review committee for Beloved, agreed and issued the following ruling:

Per the vote of the nine member Complaint Review Committee, it is recommended that Beloved, a novel by Toni Morrison, remain in the AP English curriculum.

On December 20, 2011, parents Matt and Barbara Dame filed an official complaint (via form 9130 F2) related to the use of Beloved in the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park Advanced Placement English course.

Per the administrative guidelines for Board policy 9130, a Complaint Review Committee was convened to develop a recommendation to determine if Beloved should be removed from the AP English curriculum.

The committee met on January 11, 2012 to hear oral presentations from the complainant (Mr. & Mrs. Dame) and respondents (Brian Read & Gretchen Miller).  After the oral presentations, the committee deliberated.  The committee met again on January 17 to further deliberate.  The committee concluded these deliberations and voted anonymously.

The committee used the following criteria in their evaluation of the novel:

  1. the appropriateness of the material for the age and maturity level of the students with whom it is being used
  2. the accuracy of the material
  3. the objectivity of the material
  4. the necessity of using the material in light of the curriculum
Because P-CCS Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Hughes previously stated that he would honor the recommendation of the committee, Beloved will thus continue to be used as a resource in the P-CEP AP English course.

While I was thrilled at the ruling for Beloved, I knew that the work wasn’t done, and I knew that the fight wasn’t over.  I have always been an activist.  Now it was time for me to be an activist parent.  My son is 6.  And while he is currently reading books in school like The Little Engine That Could, when he gets older, I want him to have the same literary experiences in school that I did.  When I was in school, I had a love affair with books such as Beloved and Waterland.  I fell madly in love with texts that made me imagine another time.  I felt the emotion and the desperation of the characters in these books.  Beloved opened my eyes to slavery in ways that an American History textbook never could. 

To hear Waterland being described as pornography was heart-breaking.  The book Waterland, did not speak to me in the way that Beloved did, but it is an exceptional book.  It is the story of:

The mid-life crisis of high school history teacher Tom Crick, who makes sense of his life by placing his difficulties in the context of the lessons he teaches about the French Revolution. And what are his difficulties? His wife has gone mad and kidnapped a stranger’s baby from a supermarket, which lands her in a psychiatric hospital; his school is cutting its History Department, forcing him into early retirement; and his students, led by the rebellious teenager Price, are becoming increasingly difficult to control, since they know that History will no longer be required and Mr. Crick no longer has the power to discipline them. In response, Crick throws out the textbook and, in place of standard European history lessons, tells the children intimate stories of his own life, in part to show them how personal and national histories influence one another, and in part as a way to make sense of his life to himself. Crick’s history lessons swerve into personal therapy encounters, as he reveals increasingly private details of his adolescent sexual exploits in the fenlands of East Anglia and tries to find the emotional roots of his wife’s madness by telling his students stories of her childhood.

The resulting narrative blends European history with racy personal confessions, jumps back and forth in time to tell a family saga spanning 250 years, and draws connections between global politics and individual motivations, placing Tom Crick and his students at the center of a vast sweep of uncontrollable events.

These brilliant books needed to be protected.  So, I decided to show up.  I went to my first school board meeting.  Although, I was passionate, I didn’t feel I had anything to say.  I just wanted to see, observe, and support.  I met great people at this meeting, and I saw many friendly faces.  The room was divided, those for the books and those against.  I didn’t have any ill will toward the people against the books.  I just felt they didn’t understand.  I assumed they probably hadn’t read the whole book, they just read a few controversial posts and that is the wrong way to digest literature. As the meeting went on, a lot of people made a lot of great arguments, some I agreed with, and some I didn’t.  It was evenly split. 

Then this woman showed up.  I really don’t know what to say about her except that she was angry and wanted everyone to know it.  She went to the podium with the sole intent of creating controversy.  With that goal in mind, she picked the most obscene quote from the book Beloved and without context began to scream it for all in the boardroom and all in TV Land to see.

All in their twenties, minus the women, fucking cows, dreaming of rape, thrashing on pallets, rubbing their thighs, and waiting for the new girl-

Then she asked, “why do high school students need to learn about ‘fucking cows?’  It was then that I realized that she wasn’t asking that question to get an answer.  She was asking that question to get a reaction. She was successful.  She actually got two.  The first reaction was from a school board member who played into her hands and asked her to watch her language.  She of course said ‘No’ and dropped a few more ‘f’ bombs for good measure.

But the second reaction was from me.  I didn’t say anything at the time, because I hadn’t signed up for ‘citizen’s comments.’  At that moment, I decided that I could no longer be quiet.

Yes, the language was harsh, but people needed to understand why it was harsh.  The subject matter was uncomfortable, but people needed to understand why.  I knew that the review committee had approved the book Beloved.  But I also knew that would not be enough to satisfy some people, some how I had to make them understand.  Beloved is not an obscene book.  But it does describe the obscene nature of slavery and it’s aftermath.  The words chosen by Toni Morrison were not chosen to ‘raise eyebrows’  they were chosen to describe the emotion and the desperation of the characters in the book.  To make the reader feel what these characters were feeling.

I felt I had to respond.  Not to simply defend Beloved.  But, to defend all great literature that makes people feel something.

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.” -Franz Kafka

I had to respond, but I also had to wait (citizen’s comments were over) and I had to figure out what to say!

Stay tuned……

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We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people. ~John F. Kennedy

Filed under JFK Quotes book banning censorship

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Tsunami Victim Found in Oregon, was Swept Away in California

A body that washed up on the beach in Astoria, Oregon on April 2 has been identified as belonging to Dustin Douglas Weber, a man swept away on March 11 in a tsunami generated by the Japan earthquake. Weber was walking near the mouth of the Klamath River in California, several hundred miles from Astoria, when he was caught by a tsunami swell while skipping stones. His mother said the 25 year old thought the danger had passed, when in fact the swells continued for some time after the initial warning. A hiker along the Columbia River found the body. — The Daily Beast

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The birthday Mitt Romney wants you to forget

"Mitt Romney is nothing short of a founding father of modern health reform," reads a press release from the state party, "a person who has left an indelible mark on Massachusetts’ health care reform as well as the national health reform law and its major elements, including the individual responsibility provision which is critical to making the law work and lowering costs for all who enter the system."

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Never waste a minute of your precious life by squandering it thinking about people you don’t like

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Wherein Which I Do The Media’s Job For Them

On Saturday, our country’s newspaper of record ran an op-ed piece by Donald Trump in which he questions our President’s legitimacy.  There was no fact checking, and there were no edits made.

Last Thursday, he took his “birther tour” to Morning Joe on MSNBC where he was allowed to spew his lies unchallenged for 9 Minutes. 

While on his “birther tour,”  The Donald consistently brings up the same mis-truths and the journalists interviewing him are unprepared to challenge him on the facts. 

The Society of Professional Journalists says that:

Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty.

There are two possible explanations for why this is happening. (1) They are lazy.  (2)  Rating go up when “The Donald” comes on and by challenging him, they are afraid he won’t come on their show anymore.  Either one is DANGEROUS —but for the sake of argument, I am going to assume it is the first one and help them out a little bit.

Lets go step by step:

He says, Barack Obama doesn’t have a birth certificate or hasn’t shown it.

  • In fact, he scanned a copy of his “Certification of Live Birth” during the 2008 campaign.  FactCheck.org has examined the certificate in person and has reported extensively on this subject on its website.

He says that a “Certification of Live Birth” and a Birth Certificate are two different things, and a “Certification of Live Birth” is not official and you can’t even get a driver’s license with it.

  • a “certification of live birth,” is also known as a short-form birth certificate. The long form is drawn up by the hospital and includes additional information such as birth weight and parents’ hometowns. The short form is printed by the state and draws from a database with fewer details. The Hawaii Department of Health does not give the option to request a photocopy of your long-form birth certificate, but their short form has enough information to be acceptable to the State Department to get a passport and prove citizenship (via factcheck)

He claims that his Birth Certificate does not have a raise seal

  • Birth Certificate Seal (Image from fact check)                                      Image from factcheck.org

He claims that the certificate does not have a serial number

He claims that the certificate does not have a signature

  •                                          It’s stamped on the back by Hawaii state registrar Alvin T. Onaka (who uses a signature stamp rather than signing individual birth certificates). (Factcheck.org)

When presented with the birth announcement that were placed in two different newspapers, Donald Trump makes two different claims:

This announcement of President Obama’s birth, left column, center, appeared in the Sunday, Aug. 13, 1961, edition of The Honolulu Advertiser. The identical announcement appeared the next day in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Trump says that the newspaper ad was placed by the family because in those days, people were much more proud than they are today unfortunately for being a United States citizen and because it was published 9 days after the president’s birth, it contains untrue information.

  • According to the Honolulu Advertiser (one of the newpapers that published the President’s birth announcement), “Such vital statistics, however, were not sent to the newspapers by the general public but by the Health Department, which received the information directly from hospitals.”
  • "Take a second and think about that," wrote Robert Farley of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times’ Pulitzer Prize winning Web site PoliticFact.com on July 1. "In order to phony those notices up, it would have required the complicity of the state Health Department and two independent newspapers — on the off chance this unnamed child might want to one day be president of the United States." (Honolulu Advertiser).

Trump also claims that they wanted him to be a citizen of the United States, for hospitalization, for welfare and for all the other assets you get from being a United States citizen.

  • According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services:   A child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen when all of the following conditions have been met under section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Child Citizenship Act (CCA): (1) At least one parent of the child is a U.S. citizen, whether by birth or naturalization. (2) The child is under the age of 18 years. (3) The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent based on a lawful admission for permanent residence.

Since Think Progress says it better than I ever could, I will quote them:

It’s also worth noting that since Obama’s mother was a U.S. citizen, he was automatically conferred citizenship and all of its “assets” no matter where he was born, thus making him eligible anyway for the benefits Trump claims his family committed fraud to obtain. Unless his grandparents somehow knew that baby Obama would one day want to run for president, there wouldn’t really be a reason for his family to fabricate a convoluted lie regarding his birthplace.

Trump claims that Barack Obama’s grandmother says she was there when he was born in Kenya.

  • “On Oct. 16, an Anabaptist minister named Ron McRae called Sarah Hussein Obama, the president-elect’s 86-year-old paternal step-grandmother, at her home in Kenya. Two translators were on the line when McRae asked if the elder Obama was “present” when the president-elect was born. One of the translators says “yes.” McRae contacted [Philip J.] Berg, [A Pennsylvania lawyer who filed the first birth-related injunction against Obama] and gave him a partial transcript of the call with a signed affidavit. He opted not to include the rest of the call, in which he asks the question more directly—”Was he born in Mombassa?”—and the translators, finally understanding him, tell him repeatedly that the president-elect was born in Hawaii.” (via Dave Weigel)

Trump claims that Obama’s family is “fighting” over which hospital he was born

  • President Obama was born at Kapi’olani Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Now Former Gov. Linda Lingle (Republican)gave an interview to New York’s WABC to Rabbi Schumley Boteach, at the 77 minute mark, she says,

"It’s been an odd situation, this issue kept coming up so much in the campaign, and again I think it’s one of those issues that is simply a distraction from the more critical issues that are facing the country.

"So I had my health director, who is a physician by background, go personally view the birth certificate in the birth records of the Department of Health, and we issued a news release at that time saying that the president was, in fact, born at Kapi’olani Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. And that’s just a fact and yet people continue to call up and e-mail and want to make it an issue and I think it’s again a horrible distraction for the country by those people who continue this."

Trump also asserts that no hospital has a record of Obama’s birth.

  • Hospital records are confidential by federal law and they aren’t released to the public but as stated above, they were verified by the former Republican Governor of Hawaii, and the health director

While I was researching this post, I found a ton of websites offering many theories surrounding the President’s birth and his birth certificate.  One website stated that Obama soaked his sister’s birth certificate in a solution to remove the type and inserted his name.  Except no one point out that his sister was indeed born in Indonesia.  A lot of the theories posted included information by people who also suggest that 9/11 was an inside job.  While writing this I tried to use credible sources, and information that was reported on by widely respected reporters and publications.  I hope that this infomation (in all of its detail) will soon get as much coverage as Donald Trumps conspiracy theories.

Filed under trump media birther truth