Tag Archives: Portland

Inmates take over asylum at small Oregon college

There is a course called Humanities 101 at Reed College, a small liberal arts institution in Portland. It is described in a Nov. 2 article in The Atlantic this way:

A required year-long course for freshmen, Hum 110 consists of lectures that everyone attends and small break-out classes “where students learn how to discuss, debate, and defend their readings.” It’s the heart of the academic experience at Reed, which ranks second for future Ph.D.s in the humanities and fourth in all subjects. (Reed famously shuns the U.S. News & World Report, as explained in a 2005 Atlantic article by a former Reed president.) As Professor Peter Steinberger details in a 2011 piece for Reed magazine, “What Hum 110 Is All About,” the course is intended to train students whose “primary goal” is “to engage in original, open-ended, critical inquiry.”

All well and good, right? This is what college is supposed to be about. Challenging assumptions and forcing students to learn critical reasoning skills so that they can not only defend that which they think they know, but learn also what they do not know, and how to debate these issues in a civil society — and to further and defend their future academic research, if any.

Except that is not how it is working out at Reed, as writer Chris Bodenner notes in that Atlantic article:

[In Humanties 101], a 39-year-old Saturday Night Live skit recently caused an uproar over cultural appropriation. In the classic Steve Martin skit, he performs a goofy song, “King Tut,” meant to satirize a Tutankhamun exhibit touring the U.S. and to criticize the commercialization of Egyptian culture. You could say that his critique is weak; that his humor is lame; that his dance moves are unintentionally offensive or downright racist. All of that, and more, was debated in a humanities course at Reed.

But many students found the video so egregious that they opposed its very presence in class. “That’s like somebody … making a song just littered with the n-word everywhere,” a member of Reedies Against Racism (RAR) told the student newspaper when asked about Martin’s performance. She told me more: The Egyptian garb of the backup dancers and singers–many of whom are African American–“is racist as well. The gold face of the saxophone dancer leaving its tomb is an exhibition of blackface.”

Such outrage has been increasingly common in the course, Humanities 110, over the past 13 months. On September 26, 2016, the newly formed RAR organized a boycott of all classes in response to a Facebook post from the actor Isaiah Washington, who urged “every single African American in the United States that was really fed up with being angry, sad and disgusted” over police shootings to stay home on Monday. Of the 25 demands issued by RAR that day, the largest section was devoted to reforming Humanities 110.

The article goes on to say:

Beginning on boycott day, RAR protested every single Hum lecture that school year. In-class protests are very rare on college campuses. During the nationwide upsurge of student activism tracing back to 2015, protesters have occupied administrative buildings, stormed into libraries, shut down visiting speakers in auditoriums, and walked out of classrooms–but they hardly ever disrupt the classroom itself. RAR has done so more than 60 times.

A Hum protest is visually striking: Up to several dozen RAR supporters position themselves alongside the professor and quietly hold signs reading “We demand space for students of color,” “We cannot be erased,” “Fuck Hum 110,” “Stop silencing black and brown voices; the rest of society is already standing on their necks,” and so on. The signs are often accompanied by photos of black Americans killed by police.

“Facebook conversations at Reed bring out the extreme aspects of political discourse on campus.”

One of the first Hum professors to request that RAR not occupy the classroom was Lucía Martínez Valdivia, who said her preexisting PTSD would make it difficult to face protesters. In an open letter, RAR offered sympathy to Martínez Valdivia but then accused her of being anti-black, discriminating against those with disabilities, and engaging in gaslighting–without specifying those charges. When someone asked for specifics, a RAR leader replied, “Asking for people to display their trauma so that you feel sufficiently satisfied is a form of violence.”

But another RAR member did offer a specific via Facebook: “The​ ​appropriation​ ​of​ ​AAVE [African American Vernacular English]​ ​on​ ​her​ ​shirt​ ​during​ ​lecture:​ ​‘Poetry​ ​is​ ​lit’ ​is​ ​a​ ​form​ ​of​ ​anti-blackness.”

Oh, brother. 

Liberals like to observe, with good reason, that education has failed American students, from public schools on through college. Any one of us knows people with a college degree who nearly lack the critical reasoning skills necessary to find their way to a cogent position in political arguments.

But it’s not just students at right-wing, religious universities who are asking to be shielded from the real world. Liberal students are asking the same at many institutions. 

Civic-mindedness and the public spirit in which we all share some common values are both dying slow deaths in American culture, not to mention the strangling of nuance. 

No wonder our body politic cannot agree enough to pursue even the most anodyne of common goals now being threatened by a takeover of the poltitical system by American oligarchs.

Put another way: if Steve Martin singing King Tut is enough to send today’s students in search of safe spaces, and create efforts to shut down an entire required freshman class, then even comedy and comedic satire are both on the same intolerant, know-nothing chopping block. 

Giving the mentally ill a green light toward violence

This is the headline over a story in Al-Jazeera:

I don’t want to seem too reductive, since the answers to that question are complicated underneath any seemingly simple answers.

But the short answers as they relate to the Portland stabbing incident seem IMHO to be:

  1. Jeremy Christian, the confessed prime suspect in the Portland incident, is clearly not a well person mentally. That does not excuse what he did. But people like him used to be forced to wander the streets and scream their paranoid nonsense to nobody in particular. Now they have their dangerous views reinforced by InfoWars and Fox News.
  2. The election of Donald Trump has, despite how anyone might feel about why he might or might not have been the best candidate, has unleashed a torrent of uncivil behavior in America. Trump is, whatever his strengths or weaknesses, a man who shows people that being rude and, well, basically immature in public is a strength. If the President can do it, why not the rest of us?

Jerk-y behavior has always been with us. It’s just been given a public platform by the current resident of the White House. That is pretty much unprecedented in our presidents, from whom both sides once expected at least a minimum level of maturity and public restraint. 

Not any longer. 

If you’re mentally ill and you already have InfoWars telling you that “they” (whomever “they”might be in your worldview) are coming to get your guns. give your job to immigrants, and take away your free speech, you’re already primed for uncivil behavior in public.

Now, for the first time, throw in a president for whom saying and doing whatever he wants, regardless of the circumstances, is a virtue and not a flaw, why in the world would anyone think that the Jeremy Christians of the world would not be more likely to act on their crazy impulses?

I’m not the first person to point any of this out. But I do think all of this needs to be repeated and stressed every time one of these incidents happens. 

Words and actions have consequences, especially for those who are already battling mental illness and/or alcoholism and drug abuse.

If those of us who are not mentally ill are screaming at one another in public, why should the mentally ill feel any need to restrain themselves at all?

“Free speech or die”: Portland stabbing suspect yells in court.

 

Diner owner under fire for yelling at misbehaving toddler

There are many seemingly intractable divides in our society: Israel, abortion — and whether parents should remove a misbehaving toddler from a restaurant:

child misbehavior
Marcy’s Diner owner Darla Neugebauer is interviewed by local Portland (ME) news about her yelling at the screaming child in her restaurant.

The owner of a Portland diner is defending her actions – and comments she made on social media – that have left many outraged.

Marcy’s Diner on Oak Street in Portland’s downtown is a busy place on the weekends. Owner Darla Neugebauer said that’s partly what led her to snap at a child on Saturday.

Neugebauer said the child’s parents had ordered three pancakes and then didn’t feed them to the girl, causing the child to cry loudly. After attempts to get the family to leave, or to take the girl outside, the diner owner said she slammed her hands down on the counter and told the girl to be quiet.

If a child screams in the forest and there are no bloggers there to witness it, can it still cause an uproar on Facebook?

I watched the clip below a couple of times and, while the actions of owner Darla Neugebauer might shock someone outside of New England, she doesn’t strike me as someone who is more menacing than just being a bit too brash for her own good — or for people outside of that part of the country.

I also wouldn’t have given the story legs by continuing it online.

Nonetheless, if the child had screamed for more than an hour, that seems well over the time limit required for Neugebauer to have simply offered crayons or a ramekin of Cheerios in an attempt to nicely quiet the child and make the meals of her other paying customers bearable. It appears the parents of the child in question had wrongly decided that they could react to the kid’s acting out in public in the same way they might do at home: let her scream until she wore herself out.

I was eating in a restaurant the other night and at the table next to me were what appeared to be a grandparent and parent, who seemed willfully unaware that the two toddlers with them were screaming and running around the other tables in the restaurant taunting one another and laughing. One child even ran into me and another person seated at another table. Everyone seemed annoyed by it but the two adults in a position to stop it.

Finally what appeared to be a manager of some sort came over and stood near the offenders’ table and glared at the parents and kids. They got the message— this time — and left.

I feel for parents whose kids act out in restaurants, crying or throwing tantrums. One more meal ruined by something that can be largely beyond your control no matter what non-parents think. What is not beyond their control is whether a misbehaving toddler rises to the level of ruining the dining experience of others around them.

Also, this was the “other top story” for the news broadcast that night? I wonder what that other story was? Perhaps a fight on Twitter over Ariana Grande licking donuts?

I had the video on live connect on this page, but it autostarts and that is annoying, especially since it starts so loudly.

Go to the link below to watch.

Source: Portland Diner owner under fire for yelling at toddler, Facebook posts