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While theaters have recently been filled with many films that promise to entertain, few promise to educate, and even fewer do so in the thought-provoking way that Gus Van Sant’s new movie, Milk, does.
Milk tells the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.
The film follows Milk’s life from from the moment he decided he wanted to be a politician, to the moment he finally won a seat a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors . Milk ran unsuccessfully for political office on three separate occasions; with each attempt, he gained more and more support. Milk, however, had short-lived political career. Dan White, a fellow San Francisco supervisor, shot and killed Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk on November 27, 1978.
While each person has his or her own views on the sensitive issue of homosexuality, the film’s release could not have come at a more appropriate time. When Proposition 8 passed at the end of last year, many felt Californians had taken a huge step back in the fight for equality. Although that may very well be the case, Milk puts a face to the fight for gay rights. Harvey Milk’s touching and motivating story is guaranteed make you think a little before treating anyone poorly.
Well, after my last post on Britney, I thought it was fitting that I write about something that receives far less press attention but far greater significance. While many people, and admittedly myself, focus far too much of their energy on the latest tabloid drama or a upcoming television miniseries, I think the genocide that occurred in Guatemala, and went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world, deserves far more attention than Hollywood’s pop stars and celebrities.
After taking my first Ethnic Studies class at UC Berkeley this past fall, I was forced to open my eyes to the daily genocide that plagued much of Guatemala’s Mayan community. According to United Nations’ research 200,000 people were killed, 1.5 million people were displaced from their communities, and hundreds of thousands fled the country. Over 600 massacres were committed, and while 3% were committed by the Guatemalan insurgency, the overwhelming majority of these brutal, heartless massacres were committed by the military.
Using ChunkIt! to do some research, I found out that the indigenous Guatemalans’ livelihood depends on access to good, sufficient land; they are subsistence farmers. Over 60% of the population is rural and 2% of the population controls 70% of the land. For the Mayans, their land was not providing them with enough subsistence, and they needed relief from the horrible conditions of plantations and subdivided lands. As a result, 160 Mayan families created a colonization project in the Guatemalan jungle and built from scratch the village of Santa Maria Tzeja. In 1980 Guatemalan soldiers came and destroyed the town that had taken 10 years to build. They looted, slaughtered, and torched the town; they raped, beat and murdered the women, and when they found Mayans hiding in the village the mercilessly killed them.
Professor of Chicano Studies at UC Berkeley, Beatriz Manz, recounted her firsthand experience in Guatemala titled Paradise In Ashes.
Manz hypothesizes that perhaps the genocide that occurred in Guatemala and more specifically in Santa Maria Tzeja, because the military felt threatened that the indigenous people were setting up their own villages in the jungle, or perhaps the military was attempting to discourage the Mayans from joining an insurgent movement, or maybe, the killing occurred simply because the military could. Whatever the reason, nothing can justify the lives that were taken, and the families that were destroyed as a result of this ruthless genocide.
At 8 pm PST Tuesday night, celebrations erupted all over California as Barack Obama was announced the next president of the United States, but there were surely few better places to be to experience the excitement than on the streets of Berkeley.
I will save the actual writing of the eyewitness account for Vivek, who was actually on Telegraph that evening and has graciously agreed to guest blog about what I’m sure he will term “a hella sick evening, like, HELLA SICK”.
For now, you should definitely check out The Daily Californian’s excellent photo slideshow that perfectly captures the spirit of the evening, or read more in Tess Townsend’s article “Berkeley Celebrates Obama’s Victory“.
A few weeks back, I posted an easy three-step process to become a vote-by-mail voter in the November 4 election, written especially for all you college kids. Have you done it yet? No? Well, you have only seven more days before the October 20th deadline passes and it’s too late. So get on that.
Here’s the process again in case you’re a lazy dog:
- Fill out a short application to receive vote-by-mail status for this election.
- Mail the application to your county elections office.
- Start reading up on this year’s propositions.
Frequent Reasons For Not Voting Shot Down
Vote-by-mail ballots aren’t counted unless there’s a tie.
False. Vote-by-mail ballots are, in fact, counted first.
I’m cynical and jaded about how my vote won’t affect the presidential election because the electoral college system means that all of California’s votes will go to Obama anyway.
I concede that this is probably true. Rather than feed you some idealistic fodder about how it’s the principle of exercising your democratic rights that matters, I will give you a more pragmatic reason to vote: the most contentious ground in this election, and the one that your vote will certainly affect, is state propositions.
State propositions are abstruse and don’t affect me because I’m not really a taxpayer.
Do you care about a high speed rail system spanning across the state? Do you care about the ethics of the treatment of farm animals? Do you care about abortion for minors? Do you care about whether same-sex marriages will continue to be recognized?
Yeah, I know you do. If you are capable of pressing Ctrl+P, you can spell your name, and you can stick a stamp on an envelope, you can vote.
To paraphrase the words of one presidential candidate who is not my BFF, “See you at the election, bitches.”
This list is a follow-up to my earlier article on Time’s recommended list of 10 banned books. If you’re still shaking your head over how books like Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that challenged the status quo and are now considered literary classics were actually banned at some point as being dangerous for young minds, take a look at what books are being challenged today. (Oh wait, Huck Finn is still on this list and being challenged 120 years later.)
The following list was taken from the American Library Association’s compilation of the 10 most challenged books of 2007. Challenges are culled from newspapers nationwide and from personal complaints filed with the ALA. (The ALA estimates that for every 1 challenge recorded, there are 4 to 5 that go unreported.) Keep in mind that while a challenge is not a ban, it is essentially an endorsement for one.
Without further ado, a countdown of the top 10 books that are allegedly poisoning the minds of young people today:
10.The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Stephen Chbosky
What it’s about: “The story takes place in a suburb of Pittsburgh during the 1991-1992 school year, when Charlie is a high school freshman. Charlie is the wallflower of the novel. He is an unconventional thinker, and as the story begins he is shy and unpopular.
The story explores topics such as introversion, teenage sexuality, abuse, and the awkward times of adolescence. The book also touches strongly on drug use and Charlie’s experiences with this. As the story progresses, various works of literature and film are referenced and their meanings discussed.” (Wikipedia)
Why it’s being challenged: “Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group.”
9. It’s Perfectly Normal: Robie Harris
What it’s about: “Frank yet playful, [this book] portrays a reassuring array of body types and ethnic groups…allowing readers to come away with a healthy respect for their bodies and a better understanding of the role that sexuality plays in the human experience.
Birth control, abortion, and homosexuality are given an honest, evenhanded treatment, noting differing views and recommending further discussion with a trusted adult. The dangers of STDs, teen parenthood, and sexual abuse are examined.” (School Library Journal)
Why it’s being challenged: “Sex Education, Sexually Explicit.”
8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Maya Angelou
What it’s about: “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a 1969 autobiography about the early years of author Maya Angelou’s life. [It] begins when three-year-old Angelou and her older brother are sent to Stamps, Arkansas to live with their grandmother and ends when Angelou becomes a mother at age seventeen years old.
The author uses her coming-of-age story to illustrate the ways in which racism and trauma can be overcome by a strong character and a love of literature.” (Wikipedia)
Why it’s being challenged: “Sexually Explicit.”
7. ttyl: Lauren Myracle
What it’s about: “An epistolary novel [crafted] entirely out of IM transcripts between three high-school girls. Far from being precious, the format proves perfect for accurately capturing the sweet histrionics and intimate intricacies of teenage girls.
Myracle’s triumph comes in leveraging the language-stretching idiom of e-mail, text messaging, and IM. Reaching to express themselves, the girls communicate almost as much through punctuation and syntactical quirks as with words.” (Amazon.com Editorial Review)
Why it’s being challenged: “Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group.”
6. The Color Purple: Alice Walker
What it’s about: “The Color Purple is an acclaimed 1982 epistolary novel by American author Alice Walker. It received the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award.
Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on female African American life during the 1930s in the Southern United States, addressing the numerous issues in the black female life, including their exceedingly low position in American social culture.” (Wikipedia)
Why it’s being challenged: “Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language.”
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
What it’s about: “The drifting journey of Huck and his friend Jim, a runaway slave, down the Mississippi River on their raft may be one of the most enduring images of escape and freedom in all of American literature. By satirizing Southern antebellum society that was already a quarter-century in the past by the time of publication, the book is an often scathing look at entrenched attitudes, particularly racism. ” (Wikipedia)
Why it’s being challenged: “Racism.” (Oh irony.)
4. The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman
What it’s about: “The Golden Compass tells of Lyra Belacqua’s journey north in search of her missing friend, Roger Parslow, and her imprisoned father, Lord Asriel, who has been conducting experiments with a mysterious substance known as Dust. Both the trilogy and the film adaptation have faced controversy, as some critics assert that the story presents a negative portrayal of the Church and religion.” (Wikipedia)
Why it’s being challenged: “Religious Viewpoint.”
3. Olive’s Ocean: Kevin Henkes
What it’s about: “Twelve-year-old Martha Boyle stands on the brink of discovery: about her family, about first love, and mostly about herself. Martha is given a journal entry from her classmate, Olive, who was killed in an automobile accident. Martha didn’t really know Olive, but the journal entry makes Martha reflect on what might have been if Olive hadn’t died. In her two weeks on Cape Cod, Martha learns to deal with the changing emotional landscape that comes with adolescence.” (AudioFile)
Why it’s being challenged: “Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language.”
2. The Chocolate War: Robert Cormier
What it’s about: “Set at the fictional Trinity High School, the story follows protagonist Jerry Renault as he challenges the school’s cruel, brutal, and ugly mob rule. Because of the novel’s language, the concept of a high school’s secret society using intimidation to enforce the cultural norms of the school, and the protagonist’s sexual ponderings, it has been the frequent target of censors.” (Wikipedia)
Why it’s being challenged: “Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence.”
1. And Tango Makes Three: Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell
What it’s about: “The book is based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two male Chinstrap Penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo who for six years formed a couple. Roy and Silo hatched and raised the healthy young chick, a female named “Tango” by keepers, together as a family.
This book aims to send the reader the message that it is okay to be in, or know someone who has, a “non-traditional” family.” (Wikipedia)
Why it’s being challenged: “Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group.”
For those of you counting, “Sexually Explicit” was the biggest reason a book was challenged in 2007, with 7/10 books falling under that category; “Offensive Language” came in second with 5/10 books; and “Homosexuality” and “Unsuited to Age Group” tied for third with 3/10 books.
If you’re wondering who challenges these books, the ALA has compiled the following graph of challenges by initiator from 2000-2005. Parents lead by nearly four times the challenges as the next group. Particularly troubling is the inclusion of elected officials and government as active challenging parties.
I have a few thoughts of my own about this list from the ALA, such as Since when is “Homosexuality” a reason to ban any book?, Why are my elected officials campaigning for the banning of books?, and Have these challengers of literature checked out what their kids have been watching on TV for the past decade? I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Today is brought to you by the number 42.
Why is 42 so important today? Sure, it’s the answer to life, the universe, and everything. But I bet you didn’t know that 42 is also the number of days until the 2008 General Election.
Depending on your age, this may be the first presidential election in which you are eligible to vote, and you are of course doing your civic duty by doing everything a young voter does to be as educated as possible about the issues at hand. You’ve watched The Daily Show’s coverage of Indecision 2008. You’ve seen the YouTube You Choose candidate debates. You keep up with projections on fivethirtyeight. You’ve observed the venerated and unbiased political arena that is Digg. You’ve become a member of the Facebook group of the candidate you most support.
In all seriousness, though, you might be forgetting something important. You’re probably going to college outside of the county in which you registered to vote. Have you registered to be a vote-by-mail voter in November’s General Election?
Fear not. I have collected all of the necessary URLs for you to strip away the last of your excuses not to vote in three easy steps. If you’re not a California resident, you’ll need to look up the equivalent forms for your state.
- Fill out a very short application to recieve vote-by-mail voter status for this election. You can also check a box to become a permanent vote-by-mail voter (voter-by-mail?), but if your college address keeps changing, I’d advise against it.
- Mail the application to your county elections office.
- Start reading up on this year’s propositions. You’ll get an official voter information guide in the mail as well. Think you don’t care about state propositions? Think again. Do you care about a high speed rail system spanning across the state? Do you care about the treatment of farm animals? Do you care about abortion for minors? Do you care about whether same-sex marriages will continue to be recognized?
If you’re not registered to vote, but you are a United States citizen who will be at least 18 years old on November 4, 2008, and you are not a felon or legally mentally incompetent, shame on you! You can’t let all of the money both campaigns have spent on influencing our highly prized and elusive 18-25 demographic go to waste. Besides, there are hungry kids in Africa who wish they had your ballot to cast. Fill out a registration form online here. They really can’t make it any easier for you people.
Registered to vote? Submitted vote-by-mail status? Awesome. We now interrupt this program to bring you a nonpartisan message from Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton.